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From: The Socialist issue 924, 9 November 2016: Bosses' government, bosses EU...fight for socialism

Search site for keywords: Migrant workers - Health - Benefits - injuries - Pay - NHS - Workers - Poland - Hospital - Hospitals - 35-hour week - Minimum wage - Pregnancy

Horror of health-wrecking toil for Polish migrants

Migrant workers face appalling conditions, photo Bhernandez (Creative Commons)

Migrant workers face appalling conditions, photo Bhernandez (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

Agnieszka, NHS interpreter

I am working as an interpreter for the NHS. I see Poles in hospitals and clinics who have problems with health. There are thousands of cases and there is no way to describe everything that I see every day.

Polish woman came from Greece to England. She couldn't survive there any longer. No work, no money. She has three children. Her boys did not speak English, only Greek and Polish.

Older boy did not cope at English school very well. He is now working on a construction site. The younger boy has developmental problems, goes to psychologist. The youngest daughter is one year old. Her aunt from Poland looks after her.

The woman has problems with her weight and her knee. She works in a recycling factory, sorting garbage. Her knee is getting worse, but all she gets is stronger and stronger painkillers from the doctor. She goes to work, because she is afraid to lose it if she is sick.

Polish shop assistant in the Polish shop. She was pregnant but still worked 12 hours a day. There were deliveries of goods. She had to carry boxes. She was induced at seven months' pregnancy. Gave birth to a dead child.

Another woman was bullied at work by her manager at the hotel. She had a nervous breakdown. She got medication and went off sick. She went to see the assessment committee. They stated that she is suitable for work. She needs to go back to work, little benefits only make for modest survival.

Another man worked in a chicken factory. He stood in the freezers for 12 hours a day. He didn't feel very well in himself. He was limited in time because of 12 hours' work every day and he couldn't go to the doctor.

Injuries at work

He fainted at work. He is in hospital. His kidneys stopped working and he has dialysis, but the kidneys still don't work. He is waiting for a transplant.

A lot of people have swollen hands, fingers, because of cutting several tons of vegetables a day. They have bone injuries, head injuries after accidents at work. Factory work is very hard work, outside human limitations sometimes, and is a cause of many diseases and injuries.

A lot of Polish people have degeneration of the joints of the hands because of work. They do not go to the doctor because they are frightened to lose their job. They try to cure themselves by home remedies.

Some Poles don't like to go to the doctor because they don't know the language.

It is hard to find a new job because job searches take a long time without English language skills. People need the money to live on. They are afraid they would not find a new job and they are afraid they will lose their job and they will have nothing to live on. It takes long time to wait for benefits and people have to pay for everything.

Poles do not want to collect benefits, for many it is humiliating. They are proud, many will not take benefits. In Poland there are big difficulties in finding a job, especially for older people. Many don't belong to the unions because of the cost.


The Socialist Party says

  • Organise migrant workers! For a unionisation drive to fight for decent pay and conditions for all workers, wherever they are from
  • No to poverty pay and grinding hours! For a 10 an hour minimum wage now with no exemptions, a maximum 35-hour week with no loss of pay, and living benefits without compulsion
  • Reverse all NHS cuts and sell-offs! For a fully funded, publicly owned and run NHS, free for all at the point of need
  • Invest in education! For free education for all at every level, including free classes in English as a second or other language





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