the friend online
11 August 2006

Analysis

Exploited and ignored - preview

Storm clouds gathering over a golden field. Photo: Anna Paczewska/iStockphoto

Storm clouds gathering over a golden field. Photo: Anna Paczewska/iStockphoto
If we support fair trade in other countries, isn't it time we started demanding fair trade in our own? David de Verny, Lincolnshire MM, an ecumenical chaplain in Southest Lincolnshire, writes about an area that gets little attention – the lives of migrant workers in the UK

The typical story of a migrant worker begins on the drought-stricken plains of Northern Portugal or the poor eastern parts of Poland where unemployment reaches forty per cent


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    David de Verny

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    Comments:

    Ella Young, 16 August
    In his article David de Verny highlighted some unpleasant truths about the way immigrants from Eastern Europe are treated in Britain, about which we need to be aware, and take action.

    Although some of these practices also take place here in Devon, such as exploitation by landlords and employers, there is a brighter side to the picture. Slovak and Polish workers have gained an excellent reputation for punctuality, reliability, hard work and not taking time off. Exeter College offers free English lessons two nights a week for European citizens, and many take advantage of this even after a long day’s work. Even though most of those I know are doing work far below their education and ability, at the minimum wage or just above, some have saved enough to bring over wife and family, and other young couples are having babies here. This influx of young, energetic, tax-paying and hard-working people must be good for our ageing British communities, even though the need for specialist language teaching puts a strain on the education system in some areas. There is strong mutual support between these new immigrants, who help each other along the path of finding accommodation, work and cheap food and furniture.

    In the Czech Republic, similar immigration is happening westwards from the Ukraine, and Bulgaria (the latter some very well educated people). Perhaps our government is right to want to settle this wave of new immigrants, before the doors to Britain are open to the next countries joining the EU.

    As Friends, we can help as much as we are able, for instance in providing friendship, English conversation, help with the first deposit for a flat (always repaid promptly), general advice on the area, and filling in forms. Some wives speaking little or no English appreciate being offered domestic cleaning work, until they are able to find something better. These friendships are two-way and rewarding, in my experience.


    Paul Whitehouse, 15 August
    I was glad that David de Verny drew Friends' attention to the exploitation
    of workers in the agricultural and food-processing sectors. Fortunately
    something is being done. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority, which has
    draconian powers in respect of labour providers who do not obey the law, is
    currently licensing labour providers and will start enforcement activity in
    October.

    The GLA is building on the work done by the Temporary Labour Working Group,
    an alliance of all those concerned to prevent exploitation in this sector,
    from trades unions through to high street retailers. More recently, people
    living in Lincolnshire and other places with significant numbers of migrant
    workers may have heard our advertisements in Polish and Portuguese on local
    radio.
    My colleagues at the GLA will look forward to hearing from David and his
    colleagues (one of whom at least has attended one of our public meetings in
    Lincolnshire) about those labour providers who are breaking the law - anyone
    who has concerns or information can contact the GLA on 0845 602 5020 during
    office hours (9am - 5pm) or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 at any
    time.

    Paul Whitehouse
    Chairman, Gangmasters Licensing Authority
    (and Hereford & Mid-Wales MM)



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