The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 19th October 2007




Supporting the rights of migrant workers

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Lead 

SOLIDARITY THE KEY TO MIGRATION HARMONY

by Daphne Liddle

MIGRANT
workers contribute around £6 billion a year to the British economy according to a study published last week as a joint work by the Treasury, Home Office and Department of Work and Pensions for the Migration Impact Forum.

 This is the Government decision-making forum that is considering whether to remove restrictions on immigration from Bulgaria and Rumania.

 The study focuses its attention on the recent high levels of immigration from former socialist countries in Eastern Europe and especially Poland and it stresses the benefits of the high skills and willingness to work hard that these migrants bring.

 It says that 574,000 migrants came to Britain to live long-term in the year up to June 2006 and in the same period 385,000 left – giving a net gain of 189,000, which is 28 per cent lower than the net gain for the previous year.

 The report also pointed out that in some areas the large inflow of migrants has led to pressure on housing, health and education services and to a rise in crime.

 Suddenly, after years of painting migrants as scroungers and spongers, the right-wing press has fallen in love with them – though not enough to miss an opportunity to find some faults to beat them with.

 Importing a skilled and willing workforce is good for the economy and for profits. Where does this leave the existing workforce, including those whose parents and grandparents arrived within the last half century from Africa, Asia and the West Indies?

 The survey finds that the arrival of thousands of Poles has had little discernible impact on wage levels – in fact the average weekly pay of migrant workers is £424 a week, compared to £395 for workers born in Britain.

 And the survey says the influx has had little impact on unemployment figures.

 The press is saying that compared to the Poles, workers born in Britain are lazy and stupid. This is just not so. Workers in Britain work the longest hours in Europe – driven by the highest debt levels. If they lack skills it is not their fault that Britain’s education system at all levels has suffered a thousand cuts since the Thatcher years, while the Poles were benefiting from an education system created under socialism.

 When the press, on behalf of the ruling class, starts making this sort of comparison it can only lead to the sort of resentment and tensions that lead to the rising crime figures revealed in the study.

 This is the sort of division the ruling class revels in – getting workers to fight each other while they exploit them all.

 Some of our trade unions have been doing sterling work targeting migrant workers for recruitment, advising them of their rights and defending their pay and conditions to prevent them being exploited.

 Many of these migrant workers do not plan to settle in Britain permanently; their aim is to make some money and then return to their homes. This means that while they are in Britain they are prepared to put up with cramped and overcrowded housing conditions that workers born in Britain, who are trying to rear a family, cannot cope with.

 The point is that both are being short changed. More decent homes are needed for all at affordable rents – that means lots more council housing, with security of tenure instead of the current property speculators’ bonanza.

 The ruling class is also getting the benefit of skilled workers it has not paid to educate. The people of Poland – and India, Nigeria and dozens of other places around the globe – have paid to educate and train these workers who are now making profits for bosses in Britain. This is a serious form of neo-colonialist exploitation that will leave these countries impoverished.

 The answer must be closer links between trade unions around the world and building worker solidarity so that workers, wherever they come from, cannot be divided and played against each other to undermine wages or conditions anywhere.

 And the ruling class must, if it wants skilled workers, be made to pay for their training and education – giving all workers, including those born in Britain, the opportunity to develop their skills and find well paid jobs.

 *************
Editorial

Beating the bugs

DIRTY HOSPITALS have been in the news again with reports that 90 patients in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells hospitals died between 2004 and 2006 from an outbreak of Clostridium difficile – an infection that has taken over from MRSA as the main danger to patients.

 Evidence has been given to the Kent police over the NHS trust’s lax infection controls; James Lee, the chair of the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Hospital trust has been forced to resign. Lee claims that the problem was financial constraints.

 This was followed by press reports of at least 20 other hospitals that were even dirtier than the two Kent hospitals – with correspondingly high infection rates.

 It is now a familiar refrain, with the press holding its hands up in horror, calls to “bring back matrons” followed by Government promises to do just that – and then nothing. It is as though they feel that by mentioning the very name of the legendary femme formidable they have invoked some great ancient goddess who will take care of everything and nothing more needs to be done.

 But they stubbornly refuse to do the one thing that would resolve the problem quickly and efficiently – because that would mean reversing the privatisation of hospital cleaning services. And our leaders of government – New Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat, are all devoted apostles of the dogma of more privatisation at all costs. A matron alone is no substitute for a well-trained team of dedicated cleaning staff – employed by the hospital and accountable to it.

 And it needs to be recognised that the sort of cleaning required to minimise cross infections in a hospital is a specialised skill that should be appropriately rewarded to attract and retain good staff. The higher wages would more than pay for themselves by reducing infection rates and all the extra costs involved – not to mention the human misery.

 James Lee went on to explain what he meant by financial constraints. He said: “We had to be concerned about finance because this trust has been struggling with a state that is pretty close to bankruptcy. We knew the Treasury was pumping money into the NHS, but quite frankly none of this seemed to be getting to the ‘coalface’.

 “It has become clear to the members of my board that the NHS is run on the basis of command-and-control. I personally have never experienced such centralised or detailed control. I doubt whether it can ever work.”

 James Lee is naïve; he still imagines the NHS is being run mainly for the benefit of the public when increasingly it is being run as a mechanism to generate profits for private companies. Viewed on these terms it is working better and better every year for them. That is the ruling class aim and agenda.

 The NHS is not yet totally lost to the profiteers. Those who created it gave it a founding principle of a service for all, from the cradle to the grave and free at the point of delivery. The people of Britain still treasure that socialist concept to the extent that the privatisers still fear to make a full frontal assault on it.

 The workers of Britain need reminding that the founding principles of the NHS are socialist ideas; that socialist ideas work and are good for working people and that the ruling class does not want us to have things that are good for us unless we pay for them so they can make a profit. Socialist concepts within a bourgeois state will always be under attack from the ruling class. The NHS was a concession granted to a working class that was well organised had had just taken part in defeating Hitler fascism; a powerful working class inspired by the victories of the Red Army and by the rising living standards being won by the Soviet working classes.

 We must regain that level of organisation and determination to defend the NHS – and to throw out the privatising bourgeois state that threatens it so we can build real socialism.


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