Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/508/3371

From The Socialist newspaper, 1 November 2007

Comment

Countering the race to the bottom

Having been born (1958) and brought up in one of the most cosmopolitan areas of Britain, Crumpsall/Cheetham in Manchester, I have known from an early age never to judge a person by the colour of their skin, religion, spelling of their surname or accent.

Colin Trousdale, Manchester trade unionist

So when I was presented with a problem on the Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) site in October 2006 of British workers being replaced by Polish migrant workers I could look beyond the Daily Express-fuelled uproar that ensued on site.

During a meeting in the site canteen, it was established that the British workers (glaziers) had refused reinstatement as one of their number was being kept out for contacting the Express and the Polish workers were staying.

I asked the UCATT union site convenor and regional officer if they were making positive attempts to recruit the migrant workers and prevent them being used as pawns by the Australian-owned Bovis Lend Lease to drive a wedge between workers and drive down wages.

When they told me 'No' I duly issued all the lads with TGWU application forms in Polish and a contact phone number for a Polish recruitment officer.

But the Polish workers became conspicuous by their absence in the canteen. When I approached one of them, he told me that their gangmaster had told them to throw away the forms and avoid contact with me as I would get them into trouble, sacked and deported.

Scared, they avoided me like the plague, apart from Fridays when they, to a man, donated to a collection for three locked-out electricians on the site, as did the Somalian general labourers - something some Manchester-born electricians failed to do.

In April 2007, I was working at the Cargills wheat plant in Trafford Park, Manchester. This site had been split in two to avoid paying major project payments.

I was a member of the shop stewards' committee at Boultings Electrical Contractors. We negotiated a site agreement where all operatives were taken on cards-in [taken on as employees, as opposed to any 'self-employed' or agency arrangements]. A 50p increment was put on the rate.

We then got wind of six Polish 'sparks' being employed through an agency on a remote part of the site. When we questioned the management we were told that they were being employed directly by the American owners who were acting as principal contractors.

Further enquiries revealed Boultings providing materials and exercising working control over these lads.

Rate for the job

We then made further enquiries validating the lads' qualifications and then insisted that they be taken on the cards and paid the site rate. (They were being paid 10 an hour. The agency rate is 14/hr and the site-negotiated cards-in rate 13.08/hr.)

We were successful in getting the lads taken on the cards and getting all the benefits of the national agreement, ie holiday pay, lodge allowance, a flight home once a month.

We also issued them with union application forms in Polish. But due to the area official dragging his feet, they had not become members by the time the company finished them.

Before leaving, all the lads voluntarily contributed to a fund for four scaffolders, three of whom were killed in a crash on the way to work.

I hope this goes some way to dispelling the myth that these workers are somehow undermining the British construction industry.

The ones I have met are just working lads trying to earn a living being exploited by unscrupulous bosses. We should befriend and help these workers. Get them in the union, stop them (and us) being exploited.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 1 November 2007:

NHS: Kick big business out!

Targets take their toll on cleaners

Feature: NHS - Time to fight for a national strike

Editorial: NHS campaigning - national strategy needed


Environment and socialism

System change to stop climate change


Workplace news and analysis

CWU executive member calls for a 'no' vote

Unison local government ballot result ignored


Socialism 2007

Socialism 2007

Socialism 2007 web pages


Socialist Party news and analysis

Countering the race to the bottom

Respect in crisis - what lessons for socialists?


Asylum

The socialist interview


International socialist news and analysis

Nigeria: Day of action protest march in Osogbo

Switzerland: Racism dominates election campaign

Poland: Right-wing populist government defeated


National Shop Stewards Network

Wales shop stewards' network conference

London and South East regional conference


Workplace news and analysis

Bolton care workers' dispute: Workers' determination yields first signs of success

Vote Martin Powell-Davies for NUT vice president

Journalists: Fight low pay and long hours


 

Home   |   The Socialist 1 November 2007   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Asylum:

triangleVienna: 50,000 march against racism and austerity

triangleSweden: School strike against deportations

triangleRoyal wedding exposes them-and-us visa system

triangleInterview: Refugee Rights Campaign

triangle40% of England's psychiatric wards are 'unsafe'

Manchester:

triangleAfter 80 strike days Mears workers achieve victory

triangleManchester Socialist Students: 200 years of Marxism

triangleMajority of kids poor in some areas

triangleMini-strike wave continues and intensifies

Poland:

triangleThe Socialist inbox

triangleLeeds Socialist Party: Political turmoil in Poland

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

14/2/18

Homeless

In Windsor none of us want to see homeless people on the street

14/2/18

Pay

I'm now a 'manager' and I can barely manage!

7/2/18

Socialist

The Socialist inbox

7/2/18

Cinema

Darkest Hour: Not the usual flattery of brutal Tory Churchill

7/2/18

Revolution

Bernie's book shows need for workers' party

7/2/18

Students

GCSE grading game stresses out students - even more than before!

7/2/18

NHS

Tragic death exposes criminal understaffing of NHS

7/2/18

Sexism

Fighting sexism: Positive discrimination - yea or neigh?

31/1/18

Cricket

Capitalism v cricket

31/1/18

Film

Trump as Nixon: urgent questions about press freedom and the state

31/1/18

Sexism

Presidents Club sexism scandal: what you thought

24/1/18

Carillion

Carillion crisis exposes PFI chaos

24/1/18

Universal Credit

Universal credit: set up to fail

24/1/18

The Socialist

The Socialist inbox

19/1/18

Carillion

Carillion and the construction industry

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999