Thursday, June 24, 2010

The cost of prison slave labour

Stuff today reports on the cost of the government's expansion of the use of prison slave labour: people being forced out of business:

Of particular concern was the Corrections Department supplying re-vegetation - native plants used in large-scale planting - at prices the [horticulture] industry could not compete with, Nursery and Garden Industry Association president Peter Fraser told the Otago Daily Times.

Several growers had already gone out of business and more could follow unless the department stopped undercutting those in the sector, Mr Fraser said.

"Margins are already low. We can't compete with them on labour," he said.

Of course they can't compete. Corrections pays its workers 40 cents an hour. They have no labour rights, no safety standards, and if they don't work hard enough, Corrections can beat them in the head with a stick. Legitimate business cannot compete with that. And the result is people out of work, their real jobs displaced by prisoners.

Prison slave labour destroys jobs. It violates international law. Above all, it is fundamentally immoral. The government should end the practice now. Prisoners should be offered work for training or rehabilitation, but it should be at real pay rates, with full labour rights, and the full protection of the law.