Thursday, December 07, 2006

Discrimination on grounds of nationality

At the risk of being seen as a one-trick pony, I would like to draw your attention to, and briefly discuss, some of the issues raised in this article in the Guardian, which discusses the treatment of Poles as workers in the UK:

More than 200,000 Poles have registered to work in Britain since the EU expanded, and the actual number now working here is thought to be much higher. Many have found that employers try to pay them lower wages than British workers and take advantage of their ignorance of employment laws. Now unions, particularly those that recruit from the catering, security and building trades, are reporting a sudden growth in membership and involvement....It is not hard to see why some Polish workers might be examining the new Polish-language sections of union websites as they compare their payslips to those of British colleagues. Once the exhilaration of earning five times the average wage in Poland has abated, many of them realise that the cost of living here eats up most of their pay packet and the agencies that have found them work take their own handsome slices.

As so often, the comments which follow this Guardian piece on the "Polish question" more generally generate much more heat than light, although my interest was aroused by one commentator "Claude Moreira WELLING UK" who pointed out that contra the assertion of the author, Duncan Campbell, there have been other instances since the second world war when since second world war when a trade union branch consisting entirely of migrant workers has been formed in Britain. He cites the case of the T&G:

A search of T & G archives would have indicated to you that a International Workers Branch was opened in 1971 by this trade union to represent Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Turkish workers employed in hotels,restaurants and hospitals in London.The first campaign to obtain trade union representation by the IWB took place on that year at Talk of The Town in Leicester Square and The Mount Royal Hotel.

There are probably other cases as well.

However, the issue which particularly aroused my attention was the issue of employers paying Polish workers less than their UK counterparts, which is presumably a case of a perverted form of market forces in operation. Because the situation of Polish workers is somewhat more vulnerable than other UK and EU workers, as they are generally denied a safety net of welfare benefits unless they can satisfy various qualifications (e.g. one year of employment), they will be very vulnerable to the line: "you'll work for this amount of money, and under these conditions, or we'll get rid of you". The way in which the UK opened up its labour markets to EU8 nationals (although obviously more open minded than those who chose to keep their markets closed as they were entitled to do under the Accession Treaties) leant itself to such unscrupulous practices. Obviously solidarity via trades unions is one method (pdf file), but it is worth pointing out that EU law has something to say about these matters and at one level it is astonishing that governments have not thought it appropriate to make this point publicly, given that there does seem to be a clear problem of exploitation. This is that it is clearly discriminatory on grounds of (EU) nationality and thus contrary to Article 39 of the EC Treaty to pay a worker from Poland less than a worker from the host state. Moreover, this obligation binds private employers just as much as it does the Member States and government employers. But whilst I am on the subject of Polish and other EU8 workers, I would question whether or not the transitional system relating to welfare benefits applied to the EU8 workers by the UK is compatible with EU law either. While the Accession Treaty allowed Member States to opt out of giving labour market access for a particular period, it did not create any "trade-off" system where a Member State which gave labour market access could trade this against limited access to work-related welfare benefits. Thus it seems to me that an EU citizen from an EU8 state, who is lawfully resident in another Member State must be able to rely upon a line of case law in the Court of Justice which protects at least some of the welfare entitlements of those citizens, as citizens. The question is: will anyone ever challenge the UK transitional arrangements for EU8 citizens?

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for that post! I'm polish student and I use to work in UK during the summer. It's good to know that someone cares about that problem.

11:33 am  
Blogger BondWoman said...

Good luck to you. Hope you don't face too many difficulties.

4:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Britain definitely should do sth to stop polish invasion on uk!!!!!!!!!I feel like I live in poland!!

8:00 pm  
Blogger BondWoman said...

I'm leaving this comment here because it demonstrates the absurdity of much of the UK position on immigration. I often wonder how Spanish people feel? Or French? Oh, but, those people are "expats" and not "immigrants". Subtly different. Not.

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9:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very good article! It clearly shows ongoing problem and Im glad you are brave enough to speak about it. I am from a small EU member state and nad my oen succeseful business. I moved to UK for personal reasons and with good level of English, University degree and licensed for my profession in very high level, though I will have no problem finding the job according to my, managerial experience when I joined my british partner. I was so wrong! Ihave a job now for over 2 years and it includes new business sales. I have the best results in my team, my workloads are higher than for others and I am paid much less than others. Im constantly reminded how bad is my English. Is it really? It is humiliating and discriminating. When in my country foreigner with my knowledge & qualification is getting a job, he would be paid more than locals and will be ways treated as a king.
It is so wrong sterotype to say in Uk there is no discrimination. I think it is on very high level!

2:16 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

someone said- "I feel like I live in Poland" first- you've never been there, second- do you know where it is on the map? third- if not workers from eastern europe this country could die-chck statistics - not only Poland but from Pakistan, India etc. which is probably the most in GB- theres more Indians and Pakis or Blacks than English in UK why you not complaining that you are living in India or Pakistan or Africa? fourth- you will not say a word about coloured people because other person will say that you are a rasist! Poles are white so you "better people" can discriminate them against their nationality without any problem because is too much words to say describing rasizm on white man! I was reading about situation at one of english schools where kids called every day a Latvian boy a NIGGER- Head teacher, other teachers, principal asked why no one done anything about? They have asked "it is not as rasizm that boy is white" f. english fools! fifth- workes from eastern europe came and took any job available- they work better and faster from their english slow lazy co-workers, how is that? Most of you "better people" didnt want to work for the lowest national wage, and even when- you people expected payrise every 6months- eastern european work in UK years whithout payrise and when they get it, you as a co-worker say: "f. polack get payrise( whole 50p probably) and I didnt (AND YOU EARNING £10/H) F. Poles!" BEAR TRUTH? It is like a niddle in your eye, Right???? I was working as a welder for 3.5 years at roger dyson they hired me for 6.5/h my contract says pay rise after 3months - I was working 1.5year whithout any payrise- when they found out that I am very good worker I want it to quit- only after they pay me £1 more- I could do twice more than english lazy bustards (my parents been married when I was born) after 6months I got another £1 because I still want it to quit. So on the end they pay me £9.5/h English still have over £10- and still I was faster and finshed my work with better quality, my private work as well and I was doing not much for a whole day. I finally put my self together and I quit- on the end they have offerd me extra 50p- I said keep it- now I was on the top! Now I am working as an mechanical engineer- yes you know-I got 17 years education- primary, high school, secondary school, university and engineer and master degree. I was lucky that some employer give me a chance! And now I am working with teoretically educated english people- one said that Poland is a shit country never being there, not knowing people/ country history etc. They are talking behind my back- they dont like educated "pollack" on that position behind the desk- I should work cleaning toilets for them! - many times they have been talking about me when I was present thay where thinking that I will not understand or hear their wispering etc. I am living in this country over 6 years and I hate this place and people. "respect to be respected(...)" Almost every day english people giving me to undestand that this is not my place. I hate you people because you are two faced - you asking me "all right" and you expecting the same answare only- you dont even look on me when you asking - and especially you dont care really- it is just nice to ask nothing else, after that stupid two faced smile you go and rub my earse behind my back! I am guest in your country as I've never planned to stay forever! This is how you people treat guests? My grandfather fight for you little island- he was one of squad leadrs who stolen Enigma from Germans- and you brazen people said after war that you decoded Enigma- if not polish math master WHO BROKEN THE CODE! and enigma machine delivered to your hands by Polish rebel army you could be defeated in months- remember that before you say something! please read next one

9:44 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those days and now is exacly the same- or when you taken Irish workers to build your railway and now how you thinking about Irish people? You cant say the same about Indians or Pakis- because they are not white! ... I hope you "better people" forgive me my broken english I've started to learn this language 6 years ago and it was difficult for me because I only learned France and German I can speak theose languages fluently- please compare with yourself before comment! As you probalbly didnt graduate any school and college course 3hours/day 1day/week for 3/4 of a year its not an education- I wonder why your kids dont know nothing about anything! If the parents are dumb and norrow-minded?.... you cant blame kids...
Thank you BONDWOMAN that you care about other people- and sorry if some gets offended, unfortunatelly this is whole thruth! I wonder if some ever will find out what kind of treating gets eastern european workers on english farms- where they are working 14-16h on flat rate for the lowest national wage or even less! they live on those farms in caravans with no proper heating, toilet or shower...

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Anonymous check here for GC online said...

I am just leaving behind this thoughts below since it demonstrates the absurdity involving high of the united kingdom situation upon immigration. My spouse and i typically question just how Spanish language folks really feel? Or perhaps People from france? Also, however, those people are generally "expats" instead of "immigrants". Slightly different. Not.check here for GC online

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