British jobs for British workers, in practice


11:43 am - January 30th 2009

by Neil Robertson    


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A few weeks ago, Chris Dillow warned of some of the nasty social side-effects of the recession. He noted that  “the main effect of recession is not to cause poverty, but insecurity. And when people are insecure and anxious, they care less for others.” In short, fear makes us all more selfish.

On one level, what’s transpired in Immingham over the last few days has been the opposite of that stark prediction.

The unofficial walk-out by employees at an oil refinery – protesting their company’s decision to employ foreign labour – was an act of solidarity, not selfishness.

Whilst many fear their own jobs are at risk in the future (at the moment, who isn’t afraid of that?), this protest wasn’t  driven by self-interest, but by concern for the skilled workers who could’ve been spared a winter of unemployment if the company had decided to ‘buy British’.

In the current instability, it might’ve been more sensible to keep their heads down and grumble in private, but they felt strongly enough to withdraw their labour, and their actions resonated so much that they were joined by workers from other sites, swelling the number of protesters to over 800. In this sense, the bonds of class solidarity remain as strong as they were at the height of the trade union movement.

But at another, much darker level, what this incident shows is the extent to which the recession is fostering nationalism & division. Whilst Baroness Vadera expressed optimism about the ‘green shoots‘ of recovery, in Immingham and towns right across the country, the only ‘green shoots’ are of a resentment which is increasingly being trained on foreign workers. Outside the refinery, one protester used a mantra uttered by both nationalists and one Labour Prime Minister: “British jobs for British workers”.

It’s not as if they were loved in the past, but now is not a good time to be an economic migrant.

With elections around the corner, this climate of anxiety, decay and resentment is the perfect breeding ground for new recruits to the BNP. This time around, their line of attack will be more compelling than ever: “they’ve given all your money to rich bankers, they’ve sold all the jobs to foreigners and what do you get in return? Months stewing in James Purnell’s new Job Centres. Vote for us and we’ll put YOU first”.

This time around, those who’re tirelessly trying to stem the BNP’s advance will find it especially tough; when mainstream politics carries such a the stench of failure, just what are we meant to say to them?

So I don’t begrudge Lindsey Oil Refinery for awarding a contract to a foreign company, I don’t begrudge the employees for protesting against the use of foreign labour and I don’t begrudge the Italians for going where the work is. No, right now the only people whose actions I begrude are swanning around some souped-up ski resort in Switzerland. I begrudge the complacency, the colossal mistakes, and the effect that those mistakes are having on the society the rest of us have to live in.

Ultimately, Dillow was right, and I’ve never wished for anyone to be more wrong.

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About the author
Neil Robertson is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He was born in Barnsley in 1984, and through a mixture of good luck and circumstance he ended up passing through Cambridge, Sheffield and Coventry before finally landing in London, where he works in education. His writing often focuses on social policy or international relations, because that's what all the Cool Kids write about. He mostly blogs at: The Bleeding Heart Show.
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Reader comments


This time around, those who’re tirelessly trying to stem the BNP’s advance will find it especially tough; when mainstream politics carries such a the stench of failure, just what are we meant to say to them?
Labour’s fear is not that the BNP will be come a new Nazi force but that it will become a new respectable right wing working class movement and the home for all those who feel obliged to vote Labour but who look at the New Labour internationalist progressive elite and realise that they are despised.
It is not the fault of workers and struggling families that they are resentful, of foreigners taking our jobs and services .It is the fault of New Labour who have lost control of the borders and allowed immigration to quintuple . Only New Labour are amazed that booms do not go on forever and ignoring the natural community of the Nation with arrogant contempt was inevitably going to rebound at some point
There is a real possibility of the BNP evolving into proper Party that will end the exploitation of British workers by middle class Fabians for progressive and careerist ends they want nothing to do with . Brown’s British jobs for British workers (lie) was only ione of many rec9ognitions of quite the problem Labour have in the long term .

“Whilst many fear their own jobs are at risk in the future (at the moment, who isn’t afraid of that?), this protest wasn’t driven by self-interest, but by concern for the skilled workers who could’ve been spared a winter of unemployment if the company had decided to ‘buy British’.”

Would this discussion be happening (as in, would the strikes even be happening) if the company(ies) outsourced its work to the Northern Irish rather than those that live “locally”? Or the Cornish? Or people that currently live in Kent?

I’m wary of commenting about this without knowing more. All I’ve seen is the BBC 24 report and pictures. I saw a UNITE flag and heard someone who I suspect was a trade unionist saying something along the lines of “We want to compete on the basis of our skills not our pay packets”.

I’d be against any protest which was held along nationalist lines but if there is a concern about deskilling and new workers being paid minimum wage then I think there are valid grounds for a dispute. I just hope that it is not taken over by racist elements and that the discourse is clear.

The protest is pretty much about the fact that the contractors have their own workforce and that no-one else is going to be considered for the job.

On one level, what’s transpired in Immingham over the last few days has been the opposite of that stark prediction.

The ‘on one level’ is a very important part of that sentence, because there are other levels on which the reverse is true.

It’s equally possible to say that in good economic times, nobody would care about whether some Italians have managed to win a contract. The BNP might denounce it, and some slightly less extreme nationalists/protectionists might grumble, but by and large we could all be perfectly happy with the idea that Italians need jobs just like the rest of us. In fact, we’re mostly happy to celebrate when economic success benefits all nationalities.

But in a recession, the idea of ‘others’ benefitting whilst ‘we’ don’t becomes menacing. The BNP will doubtless be cheered to see that all of their predictions have come to pass – ‘British jobs’ are being ‘given to foreigners’.

There’s no morally right side in this argument. The choice would appear to be between giving a job to an Italian and giving a job to a Briton, and I don’t think that either can stake a moral claim on ‘deserving’ that job.

Where the campaigners have a point is on the issue of sustainability. Encouraging the local economy, maintaining local skills bases and building up a positive long-term relationship between the company and its employees requires some commitment on the part of the company. By outsourcing, the company isn’t showing that commitment, and it has nothing to do with whether or not the new contractors are ‘foreign’. They’ve got a right to give the work to whomever they choose and we should never criticise decisions on the grounds of work going to ‘them’ and not ‘us’, but rather on the grounds that long-term development requires long-term cooperation between employers and employees.

Do you have a source, Lee? Any links you could provide?

Unite union regional officer Bernard McAuley addressed the men from a flat-bed truck. “There is sufficient unemployed skilled labour wanting the right to work on that site and they are demanding the right to work on that site. Our general secretary of Unite and the GMB have called upon the prime minister to call an urgent meeting with the heads of industry in the engineering and construction industry to clients and the trade unions to get round the table,” he said.

“We want fairness. We want the rights of our members to have the opportunity to be employed, not just on this job but on all jobs around the United Kingdom.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/jan/30/oil-refinery-dispute

Thanks. If it’s true that the workers are being paid the same rate as existing workers, and if the contract was awarded fairly, I’m not sure if this protest should be directed at the company but Lindsey Oil Refinery but possibly the sub-contractor. I’d like to know more about how they selected people to work on the site.

I hope UNITE will be reaching out to the new workers and attempting to unionise them, anyway.

I’m all for the notion that British jobs should be for British people so long as ‘British’ is an inclusive term which includes those who have immigrated to Britain intending to put down roots: those people have exactly the same commitments (housing costs, schooling, etc) as those born here and have a similar interest in maintaining wages at a decent level.

That’s very different from workers who may work here for a few months, live in cheep accommodation and send the bulk of their wages overseas: this group is simultaneously the most exploited while undermining the wages of those who live here permanently.

There’s nothing inherantly right-wing about restrictions on the free movement of labour; but it is an issue that the right can hijack if the left let them.

One of the major dangers in the current global climate is that governments will be tempted by protectionist policies.

In all our interests, these are temptations we must all resist.

Shatterface – I think there is something inherently right-wing about restrictions on freedom of movement. However that doesn’t mean that the companies involved acted correctly here and I’d like to know more about how the workers were taken on by the sub-contractor & if the sub-contractor could’ve allowed the local populace to apply for them also.

“That’s very different from workers who may work here for a few months, live in cheep accommodation and send the bulk of their wages overseas:”

Another bullshit argument, if you’ll excuse my crassness. We as the british public are allowed to take our money and do what we want with it, spend it all abroad, save it and take it out of the economy that way, invest in foreign companies…but if a foreign worker comes here and dares send their wage home that’s suddenly terrible?

Double standards.

The left wing middle class humanities educated employees of the state and The Guardian have long sided with the international bankers in supporting an open country with regard to immigration. If there is work available, a craftsman can always undertake some unskilled work in order to earn some money. It is better to do undertake a days paid emloyment than do nothing. The recession is likely to hit the unskilled and semi skilled very hard. From my time working in in the industrial North of England and Scotaland in the 80s, the prospect of the recession lasting two years and unemployment perhaps continuing to rise for 3-4 years could drastically change the politics of this country. The problem is that there are few if any politicians in any party, apart from probably Frank Field and Hazel Blears , whom appear to be interested in the plight of the working class.

If jobs go to foreigners and the result is bailiffs breaking down Britons front door to collect goods to pay off unpaid bills; support for the BNP could rapidly rise. Politics is largely about perception .
The Labour Party lacks MPs such as Roy Mason, James Callaghan, Don Concannon or Gwynneth Dunwoody who have any emotional connection to the traditions of this country. Consequently, many traditional minded people, who do believe loyalty to this country is important , have noone to vote for. I cannot see the Millibands or Harman being effective in persuading someone who is unemployed; living in an industrial part of the UK to vote Labour; if they see jobs going to foreigners and they are receiving letters from the bailiffs. The rise of extreme right wing politics invaribaly includes concerns over poverty. Many humans believe charity begins at home.
This may be easy to ridicule if one has well paid and secure job working for the state but not if one is unemployed; one’s relationship is falling apart, there is not the money to buy needed clothes for the children and there is little prospect of employment. The film the “Full Monty” managed to put an amusing gloss on the hardship hundreds of thousands or millions endured in the 80s.

Lee, your point in #2 has been proved wrong by the fact that Scottish refinery workers have also walked-out in support of their fellow British workers. A fact that must make Alex Salmond cry.

I see this action as a good thing. The walk-outs are spontaneous and not union organised. At last working-class people realise that unions and labour do not represent their interests anymore. They have sold themselves to the devil that is the modern middle-class led socialism.

This situation must be a difficult test for the Left. Do you support struggling working-class people or do you brand them racists?

The foreign workers are working class too, you know. And if no-one tries to reach out to them, unionise them and get them involved in a fight for better conditions including a fairer recruitment process, then the struggle will definitely fail. Do you want to force these new workers to side with management rather than with other workers?

“Lee, your point in #2 has been proved wrong by the fact that Scottish refinery workers have also walked-out in support of their fellow British workers.”

You clearly don’t understand my point if you think this makes a difference to my point.

“At last working-class people realise that unions and labour do not represent their interests anymore. They have sold themselves to the devil that is the modern middle-class led socialism.”

I’d agree with this to some extent

“This situation must be a difficult test for the Left. Do you support struggling working-class people or do you brand them racists?”

On a global level there are clearly not enough of these types of jobs for people wanting to do them. That’s the problem. We can try and fencepost the UK and “repel the invaders” but it doesn’t solve the more global issue, an issue we should take an interest in if we’re to be relevant on the world stage, rather than some tribal and insular community.

14 chavscum. Your last paragraph hits the nail on the head. An employer only needs so many people for a job; the numbers employed to undertake a task are not flexible upwards , only downwards. Do Britons or foreigners come top of the queue for jobs? Who remembers “Boys from the Blackstuff”?

Labour Government and party largely controlled by middle class humanities graduates employed by the State sends Britain to war . Hardly any members of the Labour Party nor their children have any combat experience . The number of soldiers killed, maimed and injured are much greater than they should be, due to inadequate equipment. Labour presides over a depression. Soldiers leave the armed forces and find foreigners employed while they remain unemployed. Most of the Labour Party remain employed because they work for the State. State employees enjoy final salary index linked pension while those in the private sector see the value of their pensions collapse. People remember Brown has taken £5Billion a year from the private sector pension industry. Lets hope the BNP are as useless at campaigning and organisation as Brown is at running the economy.

Talk about missing the elephant. This is all about an EU rule.

Any contract over a certain size must be put out to tender across the entire EU. You are not allowed to pick and choose according to the nationality of either the company submitting an offer or the nationality of their workforce (as long as they are EU of course).

That’s it. Doesn’t matter what the unions do, the company was bound to take the best offer even if they were going to import their own workforce.

The only way to change this is to leave the EU.

Charlie: you are writing as if the dividing line is foreign vs British workers in this case. We only have the refinery’s word for it that the new workers are receiving the same wage and benefits as other workers, and it seems highly unlikely that the Italian company is able to supply these wages/benefits, take a cut themselves AND house the workers all cheaper than any other subcontractor could (or the refinery could by hiring workers directly). The enemy is not foreign workers and if we proceed on that assumption then the striking workers will not make any gains at all. Thankfully many of the workers have realised what you haven’t.

This quote from the Star (which for all its faults is still more left-wing than the Sun) underscores all that, and suggests how the Italian firm might be making a profit out of all this:

‘A 29-year-old scaffolder at Grimsby told us Italian workers were making mistakes and ignoring safety.

He said: “We need to make a stand now. This is not a racist protest. I’m happy to work hand-in-hand with foreign workers, but we are not getting a look in.

“There are guys at this site who had been banking on that work and then it gets handed to an Italian firm. It’s about fairness.”’

The striking workers are not saying (some of them might be, but not the majority it seems) that no Italian workers should be employed – just that they should have a chance to apply for the jobs too. That seems entirely reasonable to me & the challenge is for the left to support them and make sure the BNP et al aren’t able to make any political capital out of this.

Tim Worstall in advocating protectionism shock!

This is not an immigration issue, but a free market, let capital and business control the world issue. A company is put up for sale, and is sold to the highest bidder, an Italian company. Said company immediately brings in many workers from Italy, at the expense of British workers.

It is a right wing free market wet dream, and so the trolls should stop trying to turn it into an immigration issue. The Right is delighted when people loose their jobs as long as it is done in the name of making more profit for the lazy management. It is the way the Right likes it. Keep the worker down and intimidated by the fear of cheap labour from other parts of the world. The great pity is that Blair and New Labour singed up to this nonsense too. .

That is why I take with a pinch of salt the Rights complaints about loosing sovereignty to Europe when they are happy sign up to WTO and free trade agreements that destroy national sovereignty. If The Tory Party could guarantee that The EU would never make a single social regulation again, but would impose free trade on all countries in Europe, they would be in heaven, and Euroscepism would end immediately. It is not the loss of sovereignty that gets the Right, but the type of sovereignty. As long as rich businessmen are running things the Right has no problem giving away the peoples sovereignty. Which is why they singed up for Europe in the first place. They saw it as a way of destroying all social regulation by the back door. Never mind Thatcher’s “Socialism by the back door” , it was right wing free markets by the back door. Which is why the left opposed Europe to start with.

The only reason that the Tory party does not take the decision to leave Europe now is because they know that if The EU collapses then nations govts will start putting back trade barriers. So they whine about it, but do nothing.

Neil, do point out where I advocate protectionism. What I point out is the simple fact that if you want to change this current situation then you’ve got to leave the EU.

I actually prefer free markets, as you know. And in a free market a purchaser is entirely at liberty to organise his/her purchases according to whatever maximises their utility. If that includes only hiring local labour then good luck to them. If that includes hiring non local labour then similarly good luck.

“If that includes hiring non local labour then similarly good luck.”

So leaving the EU would most likely make no difference whatsoever. Thanks for pointing that out.

Tim F No, you are wrong. The workers want fairness and that means giving priority to employment from the State that is supposed to serve their interests and taxes them to provide that service. They can’t compete because the contractor is importing cheap labour. What is the point of importing cheap labour when you have nearly 6m workless people. Many of whom, despite the demonization from the middle-class left as scroungers, want to work.

I think you are arguing for a globalisation of labour that corresponds with hardcore free-marketeers. The fear of being branded nationalistic is so great amongst modern socialists, they are prepared to abandon the British working-classes to global capitalism.

Interesting – the point about the EU

Moronic brownshirt troll. “The fear of being branded nationalistic is so great amongst modern socialists, they are prepared to abandon the British working-classes to global capitalism. ”

Unlike the Right who is delighted to abandon both the working class, and national sovereignty to global capitalism.”

Amazing to see so many tories coming out in support of secondary strikes.

“The workers want fairness and that means giving priority to employment from the State that is supposed to serve their interests and taxes them to provide that service. They can’t compete because the contractor is importing cheap labour.”

Check your facts, the labour is the same cost for the Italian workers in question, it’s been confirmed.

“What is the point of importing cheap labour when you have nearly 6m workless people. Many of whom, despite the demonization from the middle-class left as scroungers, want to work.”

What if a contractor got the job who only took workers from Cornwall, housed them for 6 months, then sent them home after the job was done? Would you be complaining on behalf of the local workers being pushed out by other british workers?

chavscum, can you give some examples of “the middle-class left” vilifying the unemployed?

Bearing in mind that no one worth taking seriously views New Labour as left-wing, I’d love to hear your citations.

Because I thought it was people Workhouse Purnell, Chris “the cunt” Grayling, & bloggertarians who had a problem with working-class people who’ve fallen on hard times, not left-wingers.

The unofficial walk-out by employees at an oil refinery – protesting their company’s decision to employ foreign labour – was an act of solidarity, not selfishness.

You could say the same about the policies of the NSDAP.

The workers want fairness

Its a strange thing, but I have never come across anyone demanding a fair deal, who thought that a fair deal would leave the people he cared about worse off.

“Amazing to see so many tories coming out in support of secondary strikes.”

Yes, I found that highly amusing as well. I thought the Tory party was always boasting about how they had outlawed secondary strike action. Now here they are supporting it on the grounds that it is not Union organised.

So, apparently now secondary strikes are fine if the Union does not call for them, and it is done by the working class showing independence from the Unions.

Hilarious, these people are idologicaly barmy. But then if you read Chavscum or Charlie it becomes obvious how nutty they are.

31. david brough (member of the landed gentry)

Surprised the neoliberals and the Tim Worstall tendency haven’t come out in defence of the employers’ right to hire and fire whoever they want.

Don’t tell me you don’t actually believe what you’ve been saying for the last 30 years.

“Talk about missing the elephant. This is all about an EU rule.”

A French company grant a contract to a US company who sub-contract to an Italian company.

What’s that got to do with the EU?

Comment based on facts please, Tim.

“Tim Worstall tendency haven’t come out in defence of the employers’ right to hire and fire whoever they want.”

Erm, I actually say above: “And in a free market a purchaser is entirely at liberty to organise his/her purchases according to whatever maximises their utility. If that includes only hiring local labour then good luck to them. If that includes hiring non local labour then similarly good luck.”

My complaint is about the EU law that makes this impossible.

34. david brough (lovemaker)

Fair enough, I wasn’t referring to you necessarily, I was referring to your “tendency”. The people who hang round blogs like Guido, Devil’s Kitchen et al, but are actually only using libertarian ideology to further their own causes rather than believing in it.

They can either admit to not believing in free market ideology unless it suits them, or they can take an unpopular stand, but so far they haven’t dared do either.

35. Shatterface

Lee (12): it’s only ‘double standards’ if I believed that it would be okay for British workers to undercut the wages of local workers abroad.

Its interesting that you draw parallels with investing overseas as if the corruption, exploitation and incompetance of the global market is something is something the working class should aspire to.

And parallels with Cornwall are growing a little tired: I believe in a devolved state based on local government rather than national government and no, I wouldn’t let the inbred pastie-munching fuckers undermine local wages – if that was their intention. However the fact that so many people have come out in support of this protest suggests that the British are too sensible to play that game.

Tim Worstall: My complaint is about the EU law that makes this impossible.

So you’re complaining that an EU law enshrines what you believe? And because the firm can hire/fire as it pleases, and that’s something you support, the only problem here is that because the EU has made that enforceable, you’d like it struck down… presumably so you can complain later when firms are restricted in hiring and firing whoever they want to.

That’s like saying, you want the opportunity to complain whether the law enshrines what you believe in or not.

tim f . It comes down to numbers . If there are three hundred jobs going and over three hundred people applying , who gets the jobs? If there are more jobs than applicants then there is no conflict between Britons and foreigners. If the company can bring people from Italy and Portugal and include accommodation and travel costs in the bids, it suggests they are paying lower wages.

There is also the conflict between the patrician and mercantile branches of the Tories. In WW1 the 51st Highland Division has been described as the last feudal army. The clan chiefs and their sons led from the front. After the War, Asquith refered to the “hard faced men on the Tory benches “, i.e those who made substantial profits from the War. Both within the Labour and Conservative Parties there is fact a conflcit between those who believe in loyalty to this country and those who consider such emotions irrelevant in this day and age. Those who consider loyalty to this country irrelevant are probably those who will not be affected by low cost immigrant labour. As they saying goes ” Before you condemn me , walk a mile in my shoes”.
Labour has sent this country to war. A marine has just been awarded the George Cross. He pulled the trip wire attached to a grenade . Realising the rest of his team could be killed , he threw himself onto the grenade. By doing so he risked near certain death in order to save his comrades. When is the Labour Party going to show selfless courage in defending this country?

Bringing in immigrant labour, such as replacing Brown with Merkel may be just what this country needs. I am sure we can recruit some cheaper journalists from India, who have a better grasp of English language and literature than Toynbee and Alibhai Brown.

When one is earning £25K/yr , a 10-15% decrease in salary causd by cheaper immigrant labour can have a seriously adverse impact on the quality of life.

God, there’s a lot of comments to wade through on this here thread. I don’t know how I’d cope on one of those 100+ comment threads. As it happens, I don’t have too much more to add to what’s written above, but I think Rob Knight’s comment @ 5 is closest to my own views, which are split between being worried for the skilled manual labourers who’re facing an indefinite (i.e. long) period on the dole, and immigrant workers across the country who’ve done nothing to deserve what I suspect will be a sustained period of scapegoating from here on in. I was in a pub in Barnsley this afternoon and I got the distinct impression that Johnny Foreigner is the new Karen Matthews.

Tim Worstall: “Any contract over a certain size must be put out to tender across the entire EU. You are not allowed to pick and choose according to the nationality of either the company submitting an offer or the nationality of their workforce (as long as they are EU of course).”

Anyone who has participated in a tender exercise by EU rules will tell you how easy it is to game the system. Tenders are judged on criteria defined by the promoter, and price is only one of them. If the promoter wanted to ensure that a local company got the contract, that company would assign a high rating for post-installation support, for example. This would benefit local/UK bidders with a UK presence, and who were not reliant on sub-contractors or imported workers.

You can’t blame this scenario on the EU, Tim.

The BBC have a worthwhile FAQ about this dispute:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7860622.stm

The author is Martin Shankleman who has previously reported employment disputes sensibly.

“Lee (12): it’s only ‘double standards’ if I believed that it would be okay for British workers to undercut the wages of local workers abroad.”

You’ve really not understood my point have you? Foreign workers sending money home is no different from domestic workers spending money abroad or saving money long-term.

“Its interesting that you draw parallels with investing overseas as if the corruption, exploitation and incompetance of the global market is something is something the working class should aspire to.”

Yep, you’ve definitely missed my point.

“And parallels with Cornwall are growing a little tired”

So keeping it simple here, do you believe that if this company had awarded a contract to a Cornish/Kentish/Isle of Man firm that used it’s own workforce that we’d be sitting here having this debate? Furthermore do you think it’d be right to have the same debate?

To me this whole argument is railing against EU protocol, while at the same time trying to suggest that British workers somehow deserve jobs provided by companies simply by virtue of their postcode. Thankfully businesses are allowed to work on the basis of employing the best for the job (however they define best), and just like that means allowing someone from the north to come and work in the south, it means allowing people that can freely move within the EU to work anywhere in the EU.

It’s really about time that this xenophobic and jingoistic attitude was dropped. It’s a selfish attitude and the double standards on the opposite side of the equation involving British workers abroad aren’t ever addressed as somehow contributing to the “problem”, as if we have some divine right to have a job and other EU member state workers don’t.

As ever Tim Worstall reminds me of the Mayor of Royston Vasey delivering some stirring and oh-so-sincere speech. In this case it goes something like this:

“Support us! If it weren’t for the damned EU [chokes, wipes tear from eye] we’d be allowed to employ you local peoples and not teh foriegns! ”

Then, just as he turns from the podium, thinking the microphone is turned off, he mumbles “but we fookin’ won’t”.

Is he still UKIP’s press officer, BTW?

Lee, I think your having more trouble understanding my arguement than I am understanding yours, such that it is. You’ve decided any resistance to the unrestricted movement of capital or labour is motivated entirely by racism and there’s fuck all that anyone can say that will persuade you otherwise.

Your uncritical support for the free movement of labour is no different from Tebbit’s sentimentality for those who get on their bikes to look for work whatever the consequences for the communities they displace or for those they leave behind.

I didn’t say racism, that’ll be your words. Any chance of you answering my question rather than avoiding it?

As for your issue about communities, this is only an issue of enough xenophobia exists that the workforce required for an area aren’t integrating, when it comes to movement of labour.

To go back to Cornwall once more, there are people there that no doubt have aspirations to be things that they can’t be in Cornwall…is it realistic in the slightest (for example) to expect a group of people in Cornwall that want to make it big in the stock market to wait for big business to invest in a base in Cornwall? Sometimes work is not able to come to you, and you have to go to it, depending on the field of expertise…this is one of those areas, and to deny the italians or anyone else the opportunity simply because of their nationality is ignoring the real global issue of workforce versus work opportunity.

Hell, perhaps if we worked more globally on the issue of employment we wouldn’t get ourselves in to what is obviously a situation of there being too little work for how many people want jobs in both countries.

45. Shatterface

Lee (47): Okay, you used the words ‘xenophobic’ and ‘jingoistic’ instead of ‘racist’: perhaps you can elaborate on the difference? Its still name-calling rather than argument.

The Cornish argument is just bollocks. Even if I could imagine that a Cornish firm would open a factory in Newcastle (say) I can’t think of a reason for them to employ only Cornish workers unless those workers would accept cheeper pay than the locals and as I said in comment 35 I would oppose this move on the basis that it would undermine local pay rates.

And I stated in my first post (the one you referred to as ‘bullshit) that I have no objection to people moving to communities where they are willing to lay down roots as they would then become local and therefore have a vested interest in maintaining higher wages: my objection was to jobs being given to temporary workers who can afford to take piss-poor wages in the short term as they will often be living in cheep accomodation. Those with roots in the community and mortgages to pay, etc. cannot compete in these circumstances.

Free migration of labour always undermines working class wages because immigration is used to drive local wages DOWN while middle-class immigrants are enticed by HIGHER WAGES: the result is greater and greater inequality.

And I don’t understand your second paragraph at all, I’m afraid. You might have mistyped.

46. douglas clark

Shatterface,

I kind of know that you are going to blow this arguement out of the water, but here goes anyway.

It seems to me that the free migration of labour, along with capital, is a reasonable ambition for the world at large, though not, perhaps, it’s constituent nation states. Even without the other than marginal movement of labour, which is all that would happen, a tariff free world would see greater equality than we see now.

Which would be, sort of, good. Would it not?

Lee Griffin is totally right here.

May I also add,
what infuriates me the most is…reading the Talibani of the free markets today pointing the finger at the EU as the root cause of the Lindsey oil refinery issue. But the same free-marketeers need to make up their mind and quick.The contradictions are shocking…

Do they want a world (including Europe) where British corporations do practically what they like wherever they like, or not?
Do they want an EU where 800,000 Brits (I’ll say it again, 800,000 Brits) buy homes in Spain putting local services under enormous strain, or not? Most of those Spain-based Brits are Daily Mail readers, and no, I’m not generalising.

You can’t have the cake and eat it. And if you want the freedom to be sick in Benidorm town centre all year round or the freedom of having a purpose-built dodgy villa outside Marbella, then you may have to put up with EU workers spending 6 months on a contract in England.

The only thing I hope is that the tabloid editors and politicians have an impetus of humanity and don’t start riding the gravy train of anti-foreign rhetoric. Like Chris Dillow correctly points out, that could be potentially explosive in moments like this.

I’m pretty sympathetic to the Refinery workers, but ultimately their protest is futile.

The contract has gone to a company that specialises in this type of project, that already has it’s own workforce with the relevant skills (thus reducing the costs, time, complexity of recruitment which, if you’re looking for very specific skills can be very hard). All their staff are probably familiar with the designs and construction methods, they all speak the same language and they’re all used to working with each other.

The questions we should be asking is this: Why isn’t there a British company that can build these refinery extensions and cheaply, efficiently and skilfully as this Italian company?

49 Charlotte Gore. Labour and the Conservatives have no real interest in increasing the skills of British industry. The Conservative Party is dominated by international finance and the Labour Party by middle class government employed humanities graduates . There are are hardly any MPs with a technical/craft educationwith industrial experience . The days when the industrial parts of Britain sent MPs to the House of commons who had practical experience of working in ithe local factories/mines /shipyards/steel works /fabricators are long gone.

Any women who worked in the factories in WW2 has more industrial experience than either the Cabinet or shadow Cabinet.

Charlotte Gore: Perfect, exactly what we need to be asking!

Shatterface:

Lee (47): Okay, you used the words ‘xenophobic’ and ‘jingoistic’ instead of ‘racist’: perhaps you can elaborate on the difference? Its still name-calling rather than argument.

Call it name calling, it is to a degree, but it is also the truth. It is the attitude of giving the British some kind of devine right to have it better than others, and to avoid change because of *current* british culture…that is by it’s definition xenophobic and jingioistic in nature. It’s not productive.

The Cornish argument is just bollocks. Even if I could imagine that a Cornish firm would open a factory in Newcastle (say) I can’t think of a reason for them to employ only Cornish workers unless those workers would accept cheeper pay than the locals and as I said in comment 35 I would oppose this move on the basis that it would undermine local pay rates.

I’m amazed you’re finding this concept hard to grasp, you’re certainly misinterpreting what I’m saying, especially as it’s been stated that the individual workers are not going to be paid less than “local” workers.

Simplified (again) version. If you think it’s wrong for Italians to come and work in Britain, then why don’t you think it’s wrong for the Cornish to come and work in Lincolnshire (hypothetically)? Don’t try and think “why” someone would employ one of the other, just answer the question.

my objection was to jobs being given to temporary workers who can afford to take piss-poor wages in the short term as they will often be living in cheep accomodation. Those with roots in the community and mortgages to pay, etc. cannot compete in these circumstances.

Well in the Lincolnshire example there are barges being pulled up for the temporary workforce to live in, so these factors don’t exist. I called your argument bullshit because it is a jingoistic argument that fails to recognise that the British are just as bad at taking money out of the economy and, in their own separate demographics, equally exploited if on low wages. It’s not a migration problem it’s an issue with the working class situation in this country (and others).

Free migration of labour always undermines working class wages because immigration is used to drive local wages DOWN while middle-class immigrants are enticed by HIGHER WAGES: the result is greater and greater inequality.

Then the problem is a country’s minimum wage and such factors, not migration. You also kind of miss the point that the reason wages can be driven down is because there is an abundance of workforce for the jobs available. If there was only one company available to do the Lincolnshire job then they’d be able to command a higher price. It is competition that drives prices down, and there is absolutely no reason to limit free migration unless you’re willing to do it on all levels (See the Cornwall argument).

And I don’t understand your second paragraph at all, I’m afraid. You might have mistyped.

If work requires a level of employment, and that brings people IN to a community then there is no degradation of communities, only a change of culture.

51. Genghis Cohen

#48 is bang on, I’ve been saying it for years.

The ‘right’ have never explained how or why “economic freedom for us, massive restrictions for foreign labour but keep sending us your cheap tele’s” makes anything approximating rational sense, nor has their ever been any discussion of what effect the inevitable protectionist (read:tarriffs) response from countries we import from would be. Namely of course because the tory dominated press has never forced them to.

52. Lee Griffin. A highly skilled workforce may be able to complete the job for less money because they work in a more effective way and the quality of the work is liekly to be higher. Toyota has maintained high quality and kept costs down by making sure every piece of production is done almost perfectly first time . Having to redo faulty workmanship greatly increases costs.

Our skills need to greatly improve to ensure we are competitive on price, quality and speed of completion. Labour has had 11.5 years to address the skills shortage.

Isn’t it just awful? I refer to the comments here, not just the conversations that are being conducted in pubs across the UK. Whilst not seeking government intervention, I think that mainstream, elected politicians should be saying a few soothing words.

1. The UK is a member of an economic club. An Italian company beat three UK companies for the construction work in Lincolnshire. The UK companies are free to bid on other contracts across the EU, and a responsible government would say that it will help those companies to compete better on other contracts. That is not about meddling or subsidising, simply providing advice. It is why we have consulates all over the world to support UK plc.

2. Accept, for the sake of argument, that the initial dispute is non-xenophobic. The challenge for politicians and trade unionists is to create a debate about the competitiveness of UK companies. Given the number of job losses in the last month, failure to win a particular contract needs to be put into perspective.

3. There will be further examples of “British jobs going to foreigners”. We need a considered, moderate response now.

4. The only winners from crass, xenophobic statements by mainstream politicians are the BNP.

“A highly skilled workforce may be able to complete the job for less money because they work in a more effective way and the quality of the work is liekly to be higher. Toyota has maintained high quality and kept costs down by making sure every piece of production is done almost perfectly first time . Having to redo faulty workmanship greatly increases costs.”

I agree absolutely and completely, however the claims by the firm that won the contract is that the Italian workers will be receiving the same contract rate that the British would. The idea that this is driven by “cheap” labour on an individual level is one that is not proven.

Charlieman: Really good points.

The questions we should be asking is this: Why isn’t there a British company that can build these refinery extensions and cheaply, efficiently and skilfully as this Italian company?

Good question – but wouldn’t answering that suggest a form of market failure among British businesses?

57

Wouldn’t dare guess why not, but ‘market failure’ wouldn’t be one of the options. Why’s it a failure? The fact is a company exists that provides this service (market success). It’s not a British company though. Maybe there’s more demand for this sort of thing in and near Italy. Maybe British workers in this industry are heavily unionised making such a company operating in the UK too expensive to be viable. Who knows?

Market failure is when the least efficient company, with the worst product with the highest prices succeeds when the most efficient company, with the best products at the lowest prices fail. *Thats* a market failure. THat would prove the free market people wrong, but that *only* happens when the State interferes, giving advantages to the former type of company.

The Conservative Party is dominated by international finance

That is utter bollocks , I have never met anyone involved in” International Finance in the Conservative Party although I know many who are . They are usually not interested in politics at all. Sunny likes to talk about markets when it comes to his beloved EU but had he ever had a job or any responsibilities to go with it he would realise that the “Market” about which he ahs read in books does not exist for Labour . There is no such thing as free movement of |Labour as virtually no-one who really needs a job can leave it and go fruit picking in France when they are a qualified Mechanic working in Rotherham . It is a figment of his imagination
The staggering arrogance of Mandy who think just because can freeload off the tax payer in Europe everyone can somehow unearth free money takes the breath away. This has nothing to do with markets its to do with immigration and the assault on the UK the EU represents . There has never been any confusion for anyone else between mass immigration and free trade
Good and services exploit Comparative advantage which actually depends on building up skills and particular long term human investment in one place , not destroying then like a plague of locusts every time passing flottilla of cheapy caravans pulls up with a deal.

Incidentally fishing and Construction are not the only occupations where UK employment has been given the foreigners .My own business has been decimated by open EU competition this lasst ten years . No-one cares about at and no -one cares that the wealth created and wasted by Brown was done so by people working hard under ferociously competitive conditions

Its nice to see Conservative sand Unions starting to see their true enemies and the Libertarians and Marxists finding their true friends

58. david brough

No one cares about poor little Newmania’s “industry” sharpening pencils in an insurance office? I was out of a job for 2 years in the 1990s, I don’t recall the Tories even pretending to give a toss then. But I suppose that’s because they didn’t have Labour or foreigners to blame.

Oh, and Wee Willie Hague says he supports immigration, so you’re in the wrong party if you want nationalism.

Anyway, wouldn’t it be more accurate for the strikers to be demanding “French Jobs for British Workers”?

Oh, and Wee Willie Hague says he supports immigration, so you’re in the wrong party if you want nationalism.

I am for immigration ,…at the already high 97 levels not five times the rate so you have your context wrong . Insurance is the largest employer in the SE its job like any other. How DB you managed ot stay out of work for two years in the 90s defeats me .What are you a radio ventriloquist ? A leaf polisher ? Even now I can always work because I have skills . If I sat on my arse when the business was dispapearing I could easily be unemployed but then it never occurred to me to sit with a gaping beak waiting for other people to bring me worms

Take your sob story elsewhere. There is no excuse for taking two years off

61. david brough

I used to be a miner. We haven’t forgotten how twats like you behaved in those days, which is why no one in areas like this will ever vote Conservative.

Hope in a couple of years you’ll be hectoring your new-found pals on how, while you’re happy to use them as a stick to beat foreigners with, you don’t actually give a fuck whether they live or die.

To their faces.

“I have skills”

Not punctuation skills, evidently.


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