Showing posts with label migrants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label migrants. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Don’t blame newcomers

Capitalism is a system based on divide and rule, male versus female, young against old, employed pitted against unemployed and successive governments in Britain have played the race card (in Northern Ireland it was religion) or resorted to xenophobia to try to set workers against one another. The slogan of “British jobs for British workers” deflects from the possibility of solidarity and reflects a “divide and rule” situation in which fearful workers turn on “foreigners”. One section of the ruling class does not benefit from migrant workers and therefore does not want to bear the costs, while another section has been keen to defend the benefits of immigration. Political parties in Britain have once more begun to talk about immigration during this 2015 general election campaign. Unfortunately the debate is usually an ill-informed one and typically just a cover to introduce nationalist notions about the impact of immigration.

Migrant workers play a distinct role in capitalism as a “reserve army of labour” Employers use special schemes in agriculture and the so-called “hospitality” sector to import workers on a temporary basis. Advanced capitalist economies regularly poach workers with particular skills, such as nurses, teachers and social workers, from developing countries.
 The use of migrant workers also allows the receiver country to externalise the costs of renewing the labour force. The state uses migrant workers to fill gaps in the labour market but does not pay any of the costs of them or their families settling.
 Migrant workers are especially useful as part of the reserve army of labour because they can quickly be expelled. Nigeria expelled two million immigrant workers from other West African countries in the wake of the collapse of the oil market in the early 1980s, for instance.
 Employers do not simply want to obtain additional labour. They also want to get workers who can be used under specific conditions to raise the rate of exploitation. In some cases bosses will try to employ migrant workers even when indigenous workers are available because they assume that migrants’ status will make them easier to exploit. The vast majority of migrant workers have been used to fill the worst and most badly paid jobs. The use of migrant workers is inextricably linked to increasing labour “flexibility” to ratchet up the rate of exploitation. This is driven by increased competition between capitals.

Research puts a strong case against linking immigration to depressed wages or increased unemployment and suggests little or no evidence that immigrants have had a major impact although it is conceded that there is a limited negative effect on the lower skilled and the lower paid. While there is pressure on the wages of the worst paid workers, it is not the case that migrant workers are responsible for this. The drive for “flexibility” and lower wages goes back much further than the influx of workers from Eastern Europe. Privatisation, outsourcing and subcontracting have intensified competition over the past two decades in industries such as cleaning and other badly paid service sector jobs as well as construction. It is expensive for employers to invest in the infrastructure to train workers, so the exploitation of an already highly skilled labour market is utilised. When there is contraction in the market, the pushing back of migration occurs and vice versa. During these times the scapegoating of migrants and refugees is prevalent. Worker's fears are stoked by an austerity driven government, successfully deflecting people’s attention away from a lack of job prospects and cuts to services by pointing the finger at migrant workers.

Undoubtedly some employers in individual workplaces have sought to employ migrant workers on poorer pay and conditions of service. It is easy to see how employers could seek to employ workers on worse pay and conditions. The lesson to learn is in the importance of uniting indigenous and migrant workers, and of the role of trade unions. Not to organise these workers would weaken the movement as a whole. We are rightly fearful that migrant workers will be used as scapegoats. It is bosses who try to hold down pay to make bigger profits. They want workers to blame each other because it keeps them divided. Workers who resist this division can win better pay for all. It is crucial to argue in their workplaces and unions that blame does not lie with the migrant workers but with the cut-throat competition of capitalism that sets one person against one another in dog-eat-dog rivalry.  The most successful way to defeat low pay and conditions is to unite and organise against exploitative employers. When workers unite for fair pay and conditions, it strengthens the position of all workers.

Many of the above arguments are a rehash of ideas which opposed the movement of women into the work-force and even supported pay differentials, restricting their wages relative to men. Same with the employment of younger workers who once were placed on a pay-increment scale based upon age. Migrants and refugees are the scapegoats for people’s anxieties and fears about their livelihoods and quality of life. Migrants are not only being blamed for unemployment, but they are also being blamed for taking advantage of free healthcare and other welfare benefits.

Immigrants are also being blamed for the housing shortage. Rents are going up, and homes are becoming harder to find. But who is to blame? It’s certainly not migrants, who end up with some of the worst and most overcrowded housing. There is a shortage of housing because not enough is being built. And those being constructed are luxury flats aimed at the well-off and unaffordable to those on average wages.

“Health tourism” and “benefit tourism” are myths. The NHS would grind to a halt without migrant workers. It has relied on migrant labour from the time Enoch Powell as Health Minister invited West Indian nurses to staff the wards. Many say Britain is already “full up” and this seems to chime with a certain common sense—surely, more people means less to go round. But that isn’t how it works. Wealth is not shared out either fairly nor rationally. And the pot of wealth is not fixed. Our labour creates wealth. Yet the rich get more than the rest put together.

 In reality the debate on immigration in Britain is not about the economic causes and consequences of immigration at all. It is overwhelmingly a ‘debate’ that allows politicians and others to whip up xenophobia while posing as being concerned about the interests of workers or the poor. Borders are designed to control workers in the interest of capitalist accumulation. Immigration laws turn people into criminals.  Threats by employers who use immigration status to keep workers from organizing unions or protesting illegal conditions should be a crime. We have many big cities with scores of different nationalities living within them and as socialists we celebrate that rich tapestry of life. Some of us are waking up. We are finding out what is wrong with the world. We are going to make it right.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Migrant workers rules

Nearly 37,000 foreign nationals are said to have settled in Scotland in 2012, with migrants from Poland the largest group. This is followed by nationals from India and Spain, where youth unemployment is on the rise. There are about 150 languages in use in Scotland, although many of these have only a few speakers. The General Register of Scotland estimates that 11,000 people from outside the UK now live in Dundee, while as many as 9,000 live in Perth and Kinross and a further 17,000 in Fife.

Tayside has been the cultivation of soft fruit and field vegetables, for many years and have had to depend on non-UK migrant workers. Their importance was highlighted in the summer of 2008 when a real shortfall in migrant workers meant that farms struggled to bring in certain harvests.

These are the rules that the Cameron government wish to remove or amend.

People coming to Scotland from an EU member state have every right to be here in the same way that  we have the right to go to their country or to other member states to work or retire. Migrant workers often fill jobs in the manual labour  workforce that are poorly paid or seasonal, and which  will not attract local people who want greater stability. The majority of the migrants come over from their country where there are either no jobs or very poorly  paid employment. Migrant workers come to Scotland  to earn money for themselves and their families before  returning to their own country. Sometimes migrant  workers will settle on a permanent basis and their  families will join them over here. If migrant workers are members of the EU they have every right to be  here as we have the right to go to their country or to other member states. Migrant workers have the same rights to  minimum pay, holidays etc as everyone else and pay taxes etc like everyone else. All foreign nationals must have a NI number to claim  benefits. Some EU citizens are entitled to claim as  long as they are working or actively seeking work and  have a NI number. People from other countries must have special work permits and cannot generally claim  benefits. They get no extra benefits. Nationals from EU member states who were part of  the union before 1 May 2004 and are employed or  self employed will be eligible to register for housing. Nationals who are not working have to establish that they have the right to reside before being admitted onto the housing register. A8 (new member states that were accepted in 2004) migrants who are employed or self employed enjoy the same rights after  one year providing that they have been in continuous employment with a Home Office registered employer. Once admitted onto the housing register all EU Nationals are considered for housing in the same way and no differently as for UK residents. Council housing is in short supply in and priority is given to  people in the most need of housing. Housing needs are assessed against the categories of medical need, unsuitable accommodation, lack of or insecure  housing, social/welfare need, and unsatisfactory accommodation Generally migrant workers have the right to register as  an NHS patient with a doctor. If migrant workers are  here for up to 3 months they can attend the doctor as a temporary resident without having to register. If emigrant workers are planning to be here for more than 3 months they can go and register with a practice.

Information taken from here

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

We are All One

Capitalism is as much to blame for the death of migrants as human traffickers. Were the  fortification of borders not a priority, the value of the service offered by migrant traffickers would plummet along with their ability to detrimentally affect individual fates.

The New York Times notes: "European Commission officials expressed sadness about the Lampedusa accident and blamed criminal syndicates and human smugglers for exploiting desperate people. They called for a crackdown on the smugglers”

Yet in 2011 the Guardian's reported on a  'left-to-die' boat in 2011, in which 61 migrants were left to slowly perish  at sea, despite distress calls being sounded and their vessel's position being made known to European authorities and NATO ships".

Human Rights Watch researcher Judith Sunderland explains: "'What we really don't see is a presumption of saving lives; what we get instead is every effort to shut down borders, said Sunderland, who pointed out that security crackdowns on land crossings such as the Greece-Turkey border only displaced migrant flows and often forced more boats into the sea."

Disturbingly, many [white] Europeans view themselves as the real victims of the migration process, egged on in this perception by the xenophobic rhetoric of politicians.

Italy's recurring affliction, Silvio Berlusconi, for example, once complained that, "It is unacceptable that sometimes in certain parts of Milan there is such a presence of non-Italians that instead of thinking you are in an Italian or European city, you think you are in an African city."  The then-Prime Minister went on “Some people want a multi-coloured and multi-ethnic society. We do not share this opinion."

The Guardian reported: "In August the Italian authorities ordered two commercial ships to rescue a migrant boat in the sea and then demanded the ship's captains transport the migrants back to Libya, a move that experts believe could discourage commercial captains from attempting rescues at all and may be in breach of international law."

Marine Le Pen, president of the French far-right National Front party,  claims that, "No country in the world ... would accept to go through the fast and sizeable immigration of people who, without a doubt, have a different religion and culture."

The condemnation of Europe-bound human movement also conveniently overlooks the legacy of colonialism, imperialism, and attendant discord and economic oppression in determining migration patterns.

In an essay "The Case for Open Borders", J A Myerson discusses the reality of globalisation: "Multinational free trade agreements, supranational financial institutions, and transnational corporations ensure that capital can float between nations with all the ease of a monarch butterfly. Labour, on the other hand, remains under the jurisdiction of border-obsessed states." hE argues that "The emphasis on 'strengthening the border' should be tempered by an understanding of the political and economic decisions that have altered that border's characteristics", Myerson focuses on another global entity known for wildly erecting anti-migrant barricades: the US, where immigration was given a considerable boost by NAFTA's destruction of - among other things - the livelihoods of over a million farm workers in Mexico.  Myerson reasons: "When post-national North American capital created the conditions that made mass migration inevitable, it entered into an ethical contract with the migrant victims of its wealth accumulation scheme."

 According to Myerson, the establishment of "universal human rights" requires "globalising labour" and "eliminating borders", which merely convey arbitrary rights. Among the many "problems with defining rights with respect to the nation-state", he notes, is the fact that "most people consider rights more eternal than laws, which are merely expressions of momentary social attitudes. Wouldn't we say that enslaved black Americans had a right to freedom even before legal emancipation?"

Taken from here

 About 100 "high value" foreign executives will be invited to join the new club, to ensure their immigration checks are completed "swiftly and smoothly". They will be offered personal support in navigating the immigration system, including their own "account manager". Theresa May said it would enable the UK to maintain a "competitive visa system that can innovate in order to serve the ever-changing needs of business and ensure Britain succeeds in the global race". "We will continue to listen and respond to the needs of high-value and high-priority businesses so that we can provide them with a service that supports economic growth. The number of countries benefiting from a priority visa service - which enables eligible applicants to have their applications fast-tracked on paying a fee - will rise from 67 to 90 by next April. plans to impose visa restrictions on Brazilians were put on hold earlier this year amid concerns that it would damage commercial links with Brazil's fast-growing economy.

Business rights trumps human rights. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

An injury to one is an injury to all

Ignorance leads to indifference. If somebody suffers and I don’t do anything to diminish his or her suffering, something is wrong with us. One can be raised in ignorance and educated that eliminates others’ suffering. Entire populations can be psychologically shaped this way, with those doing the shaping being the truest of the true believers. Such conditioned ignorance lays the foundation for indifference to the fate of others.

It is all too easy to blame immigrants for causing problems such as unemployment, bad housing or crime. Whether it is Eastern Europeans or Asians, a finger can always be pointed at “them” for making things worse for “us”. Some cannot contain their indignation that immigrants should try to come here at all and talk about foreigners undermining “our” culture. It is bulls**t. The problems facing working people and their families are not caused by immigration or immigrants and will not be solved by the Fortress Britain or a policy of "British Jobs for British Workers". They are caused by capitalism.

 The immigrants who now try to settle in Britain come at the bottom of the social scale, taking the worst houses, accepting the worst conditions. Migrants are rarely well off in the country they move to, forming an underclass with little if any security of employment or housing. Immigrants often receive low paying work in the service industry (the 3-D jobs - dirty dangerous and difficult), once they enter the developed capitalist system and they can never afford the education to gain higher paying jobs. As a result they stay in the service industry their entire lives, being some of the most lowly-paid members of the working class of wage and salary earners. Selling the Big Issue on the streets may not be everyone's idea of escape from poverty but for many it may be a lot better than where they have come from.

At the behest of politicians in search of scapegoats the he mass media choose to concentrate on perpetuating urban myths about the arrival of foreign workers, furthering divisions and mistrust.  Without doubt some English or Scottish workers may have seen their pay lessen from the competition of newcomers. From this point of view, then, immigration might be a minus for British workers. We should not, however,  blame another worker for our poverty, whether migrant or not, whether illegal or legal. Those travelling long distances through fear or desperation are people no different to ourselves. Instead of falling for the divide and rule tactics which weaken us all, workers should recognise who their real enemy is and work together to defeat the system that enslaves us all. Employers needs a reserve army of unemployed, to exert a downward pressure on wages. A  labour shortage threatens the growth of the economy because it puts the working class in a strong position and clearly the employers wish to counteract this. All things being equal, a labour shortage causes wages to rise and thus puts workers in a comparatively stronger bargaining position.

 Naturally, the bosses will always seek to counteract such a situation by importing (often cheaper, more compliant) workers, which in turn intensifies competition among workers, potentially fermenting xenophobia and racism. For workers fighting over crumbs in lower wage unskilled jobs, the temptation to blame  unemployment or low wages on foreign labour may be strong. But nevertheless such views are false. The blame lies with the   employers’ demands for cheap labour. In the nineteenth century, capitalists in Britain welcomed many thousands of Irish immigrants to  keep wages down. These days it is the influx of Eastern Europeans which  had the effect of increased unemployment for existing workers and putting a downward pressure on their wages in some sectors.

No ruling class is ever completely unanimous. Capitalism creates conflicts within each ruling class since no two capitalists have interests which are exactly the same. The question of immigration causes disputes within the British ruling class. Some want to establish the principle that when a particular industry or trade is short of workers, its owners have the right to bring in workers from any other country, and thus help to counteract the danger of having to raise wages and salaries. Some other members of the capitalist class feel it would be a mistake to let in too many workers from other countries. Some members of the capitalist class take advantage of any "foreign" immigration to whip up nationalist feeling, using the perception among workers (who have the votes) that there is some threat to themselves from competitors from overseas. Those who are in possession of little are easily frightened by the threat of some other coming to take it away. The appearance of jobs going to these “foreigners” whilst their “own” go without work reinforces the illusion that migration causes unemployment.

Some capitalists have pointed out that this policy of importing migrant labour put an intolerable stress  on housing and welfare service such as education and health. Now that the economy is going through yet another of its inevitable cyclical crises, a crisis which makes migrants unwanted on the labour market, it now  puts the very same  politicians under maximum pressure to keep migrants out so to minimise state expenditure. So while many of those seeking to enter the UK might be well-qualified machine operators, engineers, builders, doctors etc (as they are), if the capitalist economy is going through yet another of its inevitable cyclical crises, there'll be no employers or money to pay for these much-needed workers. Public spending reduces the nation's profitability the bigger it gets, and is especially disliked when making profits is increasingly difficult. Racism and nationalism become more likely as high unemployment and poverty produce considerable social suffering, provoking the pained to find and lash out at those they think responsible, and politicians in need of scapegoats, chauvinistic bigots and money-mad tabloids all eager to finger some other victim as the cause .

Yet some dispute this negative side of immigration. The Government's fiscal watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, said higher levels of immigration would help the economy to grow faster and ease the pressure to cut spending. The OBR said that an ageing population would put pressure on state finances through increasing health spending, higher state pension costs and rising social care bills. The OBR also forecast that if net inward migration were cut to zero over the next five decades, the scale of the public austerity facing Britain would need to be three times larger. Instead, a higher net migration than in our central projection would put downward pressure on borrowing and PSND [public sector net debt], as net immigrants are more likely to be of working age than the population in general.

Those who today argue for “fair” or “just” immigration controls ought to realize that over a century ago trade unionists were fighting controls in principle. They rejected all notions of “fair” controls and instead appealed for workers solidarity against a system that exploits all workers. The problems we face are not caused by workers from other parts of the world migrating to this part, but by the capitalist system of class ownership. What an extraordinary idea it is that members of the human race should be forced to remain on that small section of the earth's surface in which they happened to be born. Who gave the world's rulers the right to tell us which bit of land we should live on? How much longer are we willing to sit around and let a tiny minority divide us? Socialists understand that the thing which makes workers leave behind their communities, and go to a place where their language is not spoken, the same food is not eaten or the same clothes are worn , is the wages system itself.

Unique amongst all political parties, left or right, the Socialist Party has no national axe to grind. We side with no particular state or government. We have no time for border controls. The world over, workers must do what they can individually and collectively to survive and resist capitalism. In many parts of the world that means escaping political tyranny or economic poverty. Workers should try and resist taking sides.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Workers United

Scab is the number one worst thing one we can call a fellow worker, and we need to be very careful how we use it. It is the worst thing that can be said about a fellow worker, akin to "traitor." It does not mean non-union worker.

Poor workers from other countries are not scabs, they are our fellow workers. Only when they actually cross a picket line are they scabs. And when the strike is over, they stop being scabs and we need to get back to trying to organise them.

Migrant workers are our fellow workers, exploited by capitalists in both multinational corporations and in domestically-owned businesses. They are not crossing picket lines and we never can fall into divide and rule arguments advanced by those whose interests are served when we are divided by colour, by gender, by ability, by sexual preference, by country of birth. United we fight, divided we crawl!

Our enemies are not our fellow workers that are being exploited, our enemies are the ones that are destroying our incomes, endangering our lives through the elimination of health and safety legislation, those that insist that "we" cannot compete against workers who are being grossly exploited due to low wages and bad working conditions. It is not workers overseas that are responsible for the destruction of jobs and cuts in incomes and benefits. That is those who are in power both economically and those that serve their interests politically and mainstream economists who sole role is to provide the justifications for the destruction of the social welfare state and workers conditions of work and income standards. Do not fall for divide and rule!

One of the reasons why the labour movement collapsed was because workers decided that they were "partners" with their employers and the "foreign workers" were their enemy. As a result, the company "negotiated" one give-back after another, stuffed it all into their pockets--then moved all the factories anyway.

The unions should have remembered what the word "solidarity" means. The entire idea of a nation-based labor movement is now outmoded, ineffective and obsolete. In a corporate world, we must instead become company-based rather than geographically-based. In a world made up of multi-national companies who owe loyalty to no government and have no nation, there simply is no such thing anymore as an “American worker” or a “Chinese worker” or a “Somali worker”. There are only “Ford workers” or “Honda workers” or “British Petroleum workers”—and they all do the same work for the same employer and have the same interests, whether their factory happens to be located in Tennessee, Tibet or Timbuktu. And if a Ford worker in Detroit gets X dollars an hour to do a job, then a Ford worker in China or Thailand had better be getting the same X dollars an hour for doing the same job—because if he's not, then guess where the factory will be going?

It’s an lesson that the unions ignored. Instead of organizing all Ford or steel workers across the world to face their common employer, the unions have ignored foreign employees completely or even treated them as enemies; instead of raising the foreign wages to match ours. What the labour movement must do is to follow the companies wherever they go, to any country, and organize all the workers there. One company, one union, one contract, one wage scale—no matter where you are. That cannot happen until workers give up their attachment to outdated nationalism. The only way the corporate bosses can be beaten is if all their workers stick together, organise together, and fight together, no matter what country they happen to be located in. That is what “solidarity” means.

It used to be that “workers of the world, unite!” was just an aspirational political slogan. Today, it is our survival strategy.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Global Govanhill

Govanhill on the south side of Glasgow is home to some 15,000 has people from an estimated 42 different nationalities living within one square mile. Why Govanhill?  The availability of cheap, private-let housing is one practical reason. Also, immigration is self-perpetuating – the presence of an established community makes it more likely others will come and settle. Govanhill was at one time a mining village outside Glasgow. It started to expand significantly from 1837 with the foundation of the Govan Iron Works, known to this day, even though it is long gone, as Dixon’s Blazes. The Irish also began to arrive in Glasgow in large numbers at around this time, estimated at more than 1,000 people a week during 1848 – escaping the famine and seeking employment. In the 1960s, with the demolition of the Gorbals tenements, a second wave of Irish moved to Govanhill. At the end of the 19th century, heavy industry began to draw Jews from Poland and Lithuania. Significant immigration from the Indian sub-continent, in particular from Pakistan, was a phenomenon first observed in the 1960s and 1970s. The sheer numbers of Irish and Asians living in Govanhill during this period led to the area being nicknamed Bengal/Donegal.

Along Allison Street you can daunder up and down and hear not a word of Glaswegian, spoken. It’s all Urdu, Romani, Slovak, Polish, Czech, Somali, Igbo and more. Much of the shop front signage is in Arabic. Completely dominant is the presence of food and drink. A smell of spice and other aromas so strong you can taste it: haleem; nihari; fried fish; dried fish; chana chat; chips; and, of course from the pubs the reek of beer. Available is lado, barfi and gulab jamun (balls of dough, deep-fried and dipped in syrup) or ewa agoyin – a Nigerian dish of beans and stew. Italian Scots  established so many beloved chippies and ice-cream parlours. The Asian immigrants started to arrive in the 1970s. Pakistan was the main country of origin, very few Indians.  There are  biryanis, daal, mustard-leaf saag and curry options, about half of which include meat on the bone – the traditional way of doing it, with way more flavour and naan bread. Also now on the multi-cultural menu is goja, a Romani word, the bowel of a pig stuffed with potatoes and garlic, then boiled or fried.

Since 2004, when Slovakia and the Czech Republic joined the EU, another ingredient has added flavour to the Govanhill melting pot – the Roma people. There are thought to be around 3,000 in the area, and in some parts of the district they appear to be the most populous group; one local primary school has a majority eastern European population and very few English-speaking pupils. The first Roma in Glasgow were asylum seekers from Slovakia, escaping racial hatred. Most, now, are economic migrants, coming from villages in the region of Michalovce. In Glasgow, they have found casual work in potato and chicken processing factories, though, increasingly, jobs are hard to come by. Romanian nationals have very restricted access to the benefits system, and there is anecdotal evidence that some Roma from that country, now living in Govanhill, cannot afford to feed themselves and thus go through the bins of private residences and shops, looking for food.

Kelly’s is one of a number of pubs in the area which cater to those remnants of the Irish population once so dominant here. Tony Mai Gallagher, 71, from Kincasslagh, Donegal moved to Glasgow in 1954 at the age of 12. He well remembers the anti-Irish, anti-Catholic prejudice of his earlier years, and this experience softens him towards the Roma. "Harmony is what we need.” he says

Taken from here

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

China's class struggle

More than 1,000 furious migrant workers besieged a factory in Shanghai and held 18 Japanese and Chinese managers against their will for more than a day, after the workers were subjected to unequal regulations. 400 police freed the managers.

The workers of Japanese electronic appliance maker Shanghai Shinmei Electric staged a strike and besieged the factory for two days following the introduction of a new factory policy calling for heavy fines, demerits or immediate termination for workers who made a mistake.

A worker wrote via a microblog about the desperate situation management allegedly put them in. "We earn less than 2,000 yuan a month, but we could be subjected to fines of 50 to 100 yuan for arriving late or spending more than two minutes in the toilet,"

 The National Bureau of Statistics last week revealed the country’s Gini coefficient – which measures income inequality. The official figure of 0.474 is a belated acknowledgment that China has a serious problem. On the Gini scale, 0 is perfect equality and 1 is total inequality – any rating above 0.4 is considered to be dangerous to social stability.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Roma discrimination

A report, commissioned by Oxfam, says members of the large Roma community in Glasgow have been systematically threatened and lied to by government employees while long delays in payments of legitimate benefits have led to high levels of child poverty.

 Evidence of discrimination and prejudice against the most marginalised ethnic group in Europe is contained in the report written by the Govanhill Law Centre (GLC), which investigated how more than 60 Roma families living in the city were dealt with by the DWP and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The lawyers who carried out the investigation said the way many Roma were treated was contrary to the UK government’s legal obligations and amounted to unlawful and unequal treatment.

 As a result of delays in payments – up to three years in some cases – 36 per cent of low-paid Roma claimants faced destitution. These included one woman with three children and a baby less than one year old who was unlawfully evicted from her home because her housing benefit had been wrongly assessed. Another woman with seven children was also evicted and had to sleep on a family member’s floor.

 Among the report’s findings are that:
Public employees made unwarranted threats to return claimants back to their home countries and wrongly stated the law; there was an unreasonable delay with decisions on benefits in 56 per cent of cases; nearly half of all Roma claims - 47 per cent - were automatically dealt with as fraudulent by the HMRC; as a result of delays in payments, one in five Roma claimants faced homelessness;70 per cent of Roma interviewees said they felt discriminated against by public officials.

 Judith Robertson, the head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “We are extremely concerned by evidence that Roma people are being treated differently from other EU citizens. Evidence of discrimination within the DWP or HMRC against any particular group should be properly investigated and acted on. We need to make sure that our benefits system treats people equally.”

 Hanzala Malik, a Labour MSP in Glasgow, called for an inquiry. He said: “I am gravely concerned if people are being pushed into destitution by the very systems meant to protect them. Many Roma people across Europe have endured a great deal of hardship in their home country, only to be met with suspicion and discrimination here in Scotland. The allegations of public authority staff wrongly stating the law and making unwarranted threats to people who do not know ‘the system’ are very serious and if proven would be totally unacceptable.The resources to support and advocate for ethnic minorities or pursue claims of racism or discrimination have diminished to practically nothing. This leaves groups such as the Roma communities even more vulnerable and people or institutions acting in a racist manner feel they will not be investigated. I fully support and call for a full inquiry as such attitudes need to be challenged.”

Socialist Courier has posted several times on the plight of the Roma 

Sunday, March 04, 2012

No worker is illegal

Phil Taylor, regional director of the UK Border Agency in Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: "We will not tolerate illegal working which threatens to damage our communities - it undercuts wages and exploits vulnerable workers."

Simple solution - make them legal. Cracking down on illegal immigration only leads to the creation of an underclass of undocumented migrants

It is all too easy to blame immigrants for causing or at least aggravating problems such as unemployment and low wages. The socialist response to this is simply to point out that poverty and social disruption are caused by capitalism. All those people seeking migration, whether legal or illegal, are simply obeying the imperative that they must try to find a place to work; and no amount of government restrictions will change that fact.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sweet Pickings

David Leslie Fruits , a Perthshire fruit farm , has been ordered to pay more than £26,000 to two fruit pickers. During their time at the farm they lived among 200 workers in cramped metal cabins with no running water or lockers for personal belongings. Workers were also expected to drag a sledge half a mile, unpaid, before spending between 10-11 hours a day in fields picking fruit.

After working for the firm for a month, Mr Kowal and Mr Obieglo asked Mr Leslie to clarify what their rate of pay was after some workers received between £1 and £5 per hour.As a result, the men were threatened then sacked but were later reinstated when other workers, who relied on their translation abilities, said they would go on strike. When the pair presented a 145-name petition calling on Mr Leslie to pay fair wages and to give them the minimum wage, they were accused of stealing fruit, told to collect their belongings and escorted from the farm by police. Eventually the pair were taken to Perth bus station by officers and told to board buses for either Glasgow or Edinburgh.

Judge Hosie said "They were treated appallingly, without any common decency or respect, and left frightened and humiliated."

Socialist Courier notes the farmer was fined , but we await details of the discipline taken by so called the upholders of law and order who ordered those exploited workers out of town and protected the interests of the bosses .

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Slums and Migrants

Govanhill sits between the Gorbals and Queens Park on the south side of Glasgow. It is a place of traditional tenements and has been home to various migrants for generations. The latest come from Eastern Europe's Roma community. It is estimated that about 2,000 to 3,000 have moved to this part of Glasgow.The BBC reports

A report by Oxfam into the Govanhill migrants found:

"On arrival, Roma without exception find themselves either without employment, or with a temporary 'position', and sharing small flats in conditions of extreme overcrowding and squalor. Having paid weekly 'fees' to 'gangmasters', Roma find they are unable to change their situation. Indeed, to break away from this exploitation puts them at extreme risk, not only of unemployment, but also homelessness and destitution in the absence of benefit entitlement."

EU migrants like the Roma are not entitled to housing benefits. They are also unlikely to satisfy the credit checks expected by most landlords.This means they group together in order to afford rents and accept properties in conditions that others wouldn't. Oxfam concluded that in Govanhill:

"There appears to be high availability of poor quality, private rented accommodation provided by landlords prepared to turn a blind eye to overcrowding providing the price is right. Issuing no formal tenancy agreements means tenants have limited notional rights and therefore cannot easily protect themselves against unregulated landlords."

Mike Dailly, from the Govan law centre said: "People are coming from Eastern Europe and they are coming to work. They arrive in Glasgow with the promise of work having paid £450. They then discover there is no job for them and they have been ripped off.So what we've got is gangmaster agencies working abroad, working hand in hand with landlords in Govanhill and ripping people off."

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

We are not slaves

There are those who decry migrant workers because of the fact that capitalists use imported labour to lower wages and it canot be denied that inded some employers do use that tactic . But Socialist Courier has always said that the way to fight this is not by imposing immigration bans on workers from abroad but by engaging in class struggle here in the work places to stop this exploitation of foreign workers .

Gleaned from the Polish mainstream press and reported at the Anarkismo website is this story .

Radoslaw Sawicki came to Ireland seven months ago. Grafton recruitment agency offered him work carrying boxes of goods in Tesco's largest warehouse in Dublin. The wage: 9.52 euros per hour, or about 360 euros a week.

Sawicki quickly realised that Irish people working in the same job, but employed by Tesco and not by the agency as the foreigners were, earn at least 200 euros a week more. Poles also did not receive bonuses or additions although their work quotas were continually raised. At the beginning Sawicki carried 500 boxes a shift. Lately that number has doubled (i.e. several tonnes per day). When he and several colleagues complained to the shift manager they were told: "if you don't like it you can go home: there are others willing to take your place."

The next day he came to work wearing a shirt reading [in English] "We are picking 800. No more."

"We will defend ourselves. We are not slaves," adds Sawicki.

Now Poles, with the support of the unions, are fighting for the warehouse to treat them like their own workers.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Who owns the North Pole - Part 10 , and other climate change threats

Been a while that Socialist Courier reported on the competition to exploit the ever warming Arctic regions , the last time being here . Well , just because the problem isn't reported , it doesn't mean it has disappeared . Also raised in the article are the other potential causes of conflicts , like for instance possible "water wars" and other competition for resources

European Union leaders will receive a stark warning next week of potential conflict with Russia over energy resources at the North Pole as global warning melts the ice cap and aggravates international security threats. A report by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the executive European Commission describes climate change as "a threat multiplier" that will exacerbate many existing tensions and heighten instability.

"A further dimension of competition for energy resources lies in potential conflict over resources in Polar regions which will become exploitable as a consequence of global warming," the eight-page report obtained by Reuters said.

The report said the EU needed to address the growing debate over Arctic territorial claims and access to new trade routes that challenge its ability to secure its trade and resource interests and may put pressure on relations with "key partners." It suggested the 27-nation bloc develop a specific Arctic policy "based on the evolving geo-strategy of the Arctic region, taking into account ... access to resources and the opening of new trade routes."

The study suggested the EU should do more to focus international attention on security risks related to climate change using the U.N. Security Council, the Group of Eight major industrialized powers and specialist U.N. bodies.

It cited a host of regional examples of the increased prospect of conflict caused by the reduction of arable land, water shortages, dwindling food and fish stocks, increased flooding and prolonged droughts which were already occurring.The east coasts of China and India, as well as the Caribbean region and Central America, face particularly severe economic damage from sea-level rise and increasing natural disasters, the report said.Loss of territory as coastlines recede and large areas are submerged would magnify disputes over land and maritime borders. "Europe must expect substantially increased migratory pressure," the report said, as millions of "environmental migrants" flee poverty, poor health and unemployment, risking increased conflicts in transit and destination areas.

Solana and EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said climate change could increase instability in failed or failing states, stoking tensions between ethnic and religious groups and political radicalization.Existing tensions over access to water in the Middle East were almost certain to intensify, "leading to further political instability with detrimental implications for Europe's energy security and other interests," the report said. It also saw additional potential for conflict in central Asia from an increasing shortage of water, vital for both agriculture and power generation, with an impact on EU strategic and economic interests.

War is indeed the natural condition of capitalism .

Monday, January 07, 2008

Keir Hardie on Migrant Labour

Socialist Courier has previously de-bunked the Keir Hardie myth of his anti-war credentials here and now it is time to dismiss him as a supporter of the international working class and expose his Scots racism .

James Keir Hardie in 1889 said said :-

"Dr. Johnson said God made Scotland for Scotchmen, and I would keep it so" .

Speaking of the Poles at Glengarnock, he said "their habits are very filthy, six or seven males occupying a one-roomed house, and having women to cook for them"

He suggested that the employment of foreigners by British employers should be prohibited, unless they were political exiles or had fled from religious persecution or if they came from countries where the wage rates were the same as in Britain.

Instead of directing his wrath at the capitalist class which exploits and takes advantage of the lack of working class unity , Hardie simply parrots the commonly held mis-conception that it is the poor unfortunate immigrant who is responsible for wage cuts .

Members of the capitalist class don't stay put. They travel freely round the world, from London to Paris, from grouse moor to ski slope, from Caribbean island to Mediterranean cruise, from the chateau in Switzerland to the ranch in Arizona. And no-one dreams of telling them that they can't. Like many laws enacted by the ruling class, restrictions on the crossing of borders really only hit at members of the working class. The apologists for capitalism who try to foment ill-feeling towards "foreigners" landing here, whether they come to escape persecution, or to obtain slightly higher wages, never attack those many members of the upper class who swan about the world as if there were no such thing as state boundaries.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Workers Have No Country

Whether Polish plumbers, Portuguese hop-pickers or Chinese cockle-pickers, migrant labour in the UK is undoubtedly higher profile now than it has been for many decades. The focus groups and private polling used by the major parties are confirming immigration as the No 1 issue for voters at the moment.

In some parts of the UK the influx may well have resulted in increased unemployment for existing workers and appears to be putting a downward pressure on wages in some sectors.

It’s worth noting that there has been an enormous effort made to vilify, criminalise and erase racist language and ideas over the last few decades. World socialists have not opposed these developments but we have argued that racism – like other the so-called "hate" crimes – is usually fuelled and ignited by poverty and fear, and therefore cannot be removed until the cause is.

For workers fighting over crumbs in lower wage unskilled jobs, the temptation to blame your unemployment or wage level on foreign labour may be strong. But nevertheless such views are false. The blame lies elsewhere. In order to stay profitable, UK employers are demanding cheap labour. It makes good business sense to welcome cheap labour from overseas – you didn't have to pay for its education, and after you have exploited it for a lifetime, you still won’t have to pay its pension.

In many ways the government is only repeating at the national level what has been happening at employer level for many years with out-sourcing of staffing costs.

And while the free movement of labour is restricted, capital is of course expected to roam the globe looking out for ever better rates of exploitation, sniffing around the sweatshops for signs of harsher working conditions or longer hours. But if these chickens come home to roost – if little pockets of the third world's poor actually have the gumption or bravery to start popping up on our doorstep – then our local administrators of capitalism start to get a bit edgy.

As with so many issues, politicians are slowly realising that governments must simply accommodate to capitalism with regard to migration and accept it. They can only try to control it but if they are to have any hope of effectively securing borders and finding those who slip through they must expend vast sums as on ID cards and the like.

The World Socialist Movement didn't get its name for nothing. Unique amongst all political parties left and right we have no national axe to grind. We side with no particular state, no government, no currency. We have no time for nationalisation or privatisation, for border controls or for migration incentives. The world over, workers must do what they can individually and collectively to survive and resist capitalism. In many parts of the world that means escaping the tyranny of political terror or economic poverty. Politically however, workers should try and resist taking sides in the battles of the economic blocs who just happen to be named on the front of your passport. You must not blame another worker for your poverty. Instead we would argue that workers should recognise that – whether migrant or not, whether illegal or legal.
"... socialists must oppose nationalism in all its forms: not just refusing to espouse their creed, but defying the rituals, the anthem signing, flag saluting and other expressions of craven loyalty to the nation-state, that help enforce the idea of nation in our minds."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More Migrant Misery

A report criticises the denial of rights to those dealt with by private firms on behalf of the Immigration Service.

The Border and Immigration Agency's Complaints Audit Committee's report, for 2006/07, says investigations into misconduct complaints have been "poor".

Only 8% of complainants were interviewed and 89% of investigations were "neither balanced nor thorough".

As a result, 83% of replies were "indefensible".

Some 71% of misconduct complaints were not completed within time targets.

In 95% of cases, those investigating the complaints had been from the companies under investigation.

Of those misconduct complaints received, 19% were over criminal behaviour - up from 12% in 2005/06.

The report says serious misconduct complaints remain a source of "grave concern to us because of the risks of injury or death, wrongful arrest and civil liability arising from the arrest, detention and removal of failed asylum seekers".

One asylum seeker, Apollo Okello, told the BBC he had been bundled onto a plane at Heathrow and refused permission to see his lawyer, with the security guards knowing he already had permission to stay in the UK. He struggled and was beaten up in the back of a van .

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Slave Labour

There is much ado about those described as illegal immigrants working in the security industry and an alleged cover-up by the minister of the numbers . Much less is mentioned about that type of work being one of the lower paid and less rewarding occupations which migrants seem to end up in .

Nor has there been too much media coverage of the comments by Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of the T&G Union about the conditions that some migrant workers in the UK are forced to work under could be likened to "a modern form of slave labour" .
"...there are all too many employers taking advantage of the vulnerability of the newly arrived...a depressing pattern of workers who are promised the move in their countries of origin, sometimes with such serious deception in terms of what actually happens when they arrive here in Britain that it would in statutory terms of international law be classed as trafficking".

He describes :-
"The awful reality all too often is national minimum wage or less, illegal deductions, deductions for transport, housing, unspecified administrative charges. Often workers on national minimum wage having deductions of between £110 and £130 a week, no contracts of employment, compulsory overtime, having to pay for their own safety equipment, and in extreme cases, racial harassment and violence. In terms of accommodation, where all too often gangmaster employees or agency employees stay, it is five and ten to a house, sometimes actually sleeping in the premises where they actually work, often illegal evictions. I have been into houses ... 16 people in a small house where they couldn't all be there at the same time so it was a hot bedding arrangement."
He talks about :-
Of how in a crop picking firm, a pregnant woman had collapsed.
"They were embarrassed about the circumstances in which she had been working," he said.
"When she asked for an ambulance to be called, they said 'by all means, but you realise in this country you have to pay for an ambulance'.

"A sad reality in modern day Britain is that it is not sufficiently focused on, which at its most extreme, is a modern form of slave labour."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Upstairs and Downstairs

This week, the socialite Tara Palmer-Tomkinson revealed that she had a "massive staff", mainly from Ukraine. "As I don't have a husband, I rather look forward to having people around me. I have half the Ukraine here every day. It's like the Russian army coming in to clean. I want to come back at night and feel like I'm in a five-star hotel," she said.

The British middle classes [sic] are looking for domestic help who can't easily pack up and leave, which means employing people from war-torn countries or from non-EU countries whose presence in Britain is dependent on their employment .

It is legal for a private householder to refuse to employ someone on the grounds of their colour, their nationality or their religion, and from our interviews with employers, it is clear that they do .

Sting's wife, Trudie Styler, was sued by her cook, Jane Martin, earlier this year.
Ms Martin claimed sexual discrimination after being forced to work 14-hour days while pregnant. The tribunal heard how Ms Styler, 52, abused her domestic staff to make her "feel royal".

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Scotland's Slaves

Some migrant workers in Scotland are being treated like "modern day slaves", according to campaigners being reported by the BBC . Promises of good accommodation and pay quickly disappear when they arrive in Scotland.

Two Polish workers told BBC Scotland that after two weeks of labour they actually owed the farmer money.

The Prague Post reports that the life many migrant workers find in Scotland is not what they had envisioned. They are frequently abused and coerced into accepting illegal working conditions, said Beth Herzfeld of Anti-Slavery International.

The most common form of abuse is debt-bondage. This is the illegal practice of paying an employer up-front for work, rent and food . Sometimes said, it takes workers six weeks to repay these debts, and then they are fired. This is a common “trick” employers use to leech money from vulnerable workers explains Paul Millar , the Czech honorary consul in Scotland .

According to Herzfeld, debt-bondage is one of the tactics used to traffic people. Trafficking is when someone is taken to, or freely goes, from one place to another by means of deception, coercion or violence. Often, as in the case of many Czech workers in Scotland, their passports are confiscated, they have a debt to repay and, being unsure of their legal right to work, they are controlled by threats.

Dangerous housing and miserable pay are often the hallmarks of foreign workers’ lives in Scotland, according to Ian Tusker, assistant secretary of the Scottish Trade Union Congress .
“You could work all day for a pittance, basically... " Tusker said.

See a related article , Borders Crossed , in this month's Socialist Standard

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Crime figures

People of ethnic minority backgrounds in Scotland are more than twice as likely to be victims of crime as others, according to new police figures. One in 20 victims of crime are from ethnic minorities, despite the fact they make up just one in 50 of Scotland's total population.