Tuesday 25 July 2017

Scab Labour Is the Issue, Not Immigration

Let's be honest, the left argument against the EU is not an anti-immigration one. Rather, it's about the wholesale importation of scab labour by management to cut British wages and put us in our place, both economically and socially. That is a fact that Jeremy Corbyn made clear when he said that people will still move around after we leave the European Union. However, he then went on to say: "What there wouldn't be is the wholesale importation of underpaid workers from central Europe in order to destroy conditions, particularly in the construction industry.

Corbyn could not have made it clearer than he did with those words that Labour is once again the party that exists to keep the wages up and the management down. The Blairite interregnum is well and truly over, and by and large we have in Labour a party that at least tries to speak for us for the first time in almost a generation.

The owners of capital have always tried to keep the wages down as a matter of course, so historically they were quite happy to pay immigrants at a lower rate than native workers. However, in the past we also had strong unions and a Labour Party that answered to them, so post-war migrant workers could be signed up to union membership and a Labour government then prodded into bringing in the first Race Relations Act which made such practices illegal. Today, encouraged by the EU, we live in a world of hire and fire where management can arrange with an Eastern European gangmaster to bring an army of genuine scab labourers to Britain to keep the wages down.

I can describe them as genuine scab labourers because they come from countries which had the type of economic system that we want for ourselves. One that guaranteed full employment, a functioning health service that was free at the point of use, and two weeks holiday every year at a Black Sea resort. Most important of all was the fact that management were little more than errand boys, with the major economic decisions being taken by the government and the unions.

Sadly, because socialism was introduced courtesy of the Soviet army, it was seen as something imposed on those countries from outside, so we can fully understand why the peoples of Eastern Europe wanted the Soviet Union out of their countries. However, throwing out the socialist baby with the Soviet bathwater has never made any sense to me, nor I suspect would it to any of the British workers who now spend a lifetime doing a crap job for a crap wage for a crap employer.

It is not just about wages because the scab influx has allowed management to pick and choose workers, instead of taking what they can get and liking it. That is doubly important the further down the line you go until you reach the fairly loathsome ranks of the lower middle class, where the attitude of petty management has gone from one of minding their manners, knowing their place and keeping their mouths shut around working people, to one of insufferable insolence.

Many years ago as a young man back in the days when Ted Heath was Prime Minister I was employed as a cinema projectionist. As jobs go it was reasonably skilled, strongly unionised and came with the added bonus that not many men in those days of full employment wanted to work such unsociable hours in a tightly sealed box where temperatures reached oven levels at the end of the day.

Cinema management tended to be not very bright grammar school types with a clutch of not very good O-Levels and a seething resentment toward us. I remember one in particular who liked to talk loudly about the difference between management and workers, but funnily enough types like him were always very quiet if we had done some overtime and had a bulging wage packet that they had to put into our hot little hands. When that happened you could just sense the resentment in their little suburban minds, and oh how we mocked them to their faces. They sucked it up because they had no choice.

We had the skills, you see, and we kept the cinemas going. Managers were interchangeable suits, but the projectionists were the indispensable men without whom the cinemas did not open.

I do not know how cinemas run today, but I would bet that management can call the shots because that is the way it is with most skilled groups of workers. The EU allows management to bring in as many skilled workers as they please and the hit to wages amongst skilled workers is as high as it is amongst the unskilled. Perhaps for the first time ever, the skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled really are all in it together, which is why so many of us voted for Brexit.

So, when the Guardian reading bed-wetters accuse us of being anti immigration they have got it wrong. Our objection is not to immigrants, but to the free movement of labour. We object to the two-legged cockroaches known as management having too many options because we know that the more options they have the worse life is for us.

1 comment:

  1. I admire your argument, but what about staying in the EU and restricting free movement of labour? We do benefit from the fact that there can be a higher authority than parliament, when it comes to things like human rights for example. Trusting the current government to replace it with something of equal value seems naive. And we benefit from many other things like membership of Euratom, which is the only way in which we can purchase nuclear material, not just for power, but medicine too. It also seems as though part of the issue of this free movement of labour has been self-imposed. Due to the fact that we did not join the Euro, we created a situation that has encouraged free movement from member states that have a lower exchange rate, which seems to me the only driving factor for cheap labour.


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