The European Union loves it. Employers love it. No wonder. The free movement of labour threatens to undermine all our working class achievements...
Our party believes that the British working class comprises all who live here permanently and sell or want to sell their labour power, wherever they are from and whatever their colour or creed. And we recognise that migration is not a benefit for workers: it is a key way for employers to mobilise and exploit cheap labour. The employers generally back both EU membership and mass migration: both help them keep wages down and profits up.
Photo: shutterstock.com/Direk Ercken
When population rises, wages and conditions fall because when the supply of a good rises, its price falls. As Karl Marx said to the First International back in 1867, “in order to oppose their workers, the employers either bring in workers from abroad or else transfer manufacture to countries where there is a cheap labour force.” Or both, we should add.
More than 20 per cent of our under-25s are out of work, nearly a million young people. Britain doesn’t need migrant labour: employers and governments want it. So governments talk of restricting immigration but actually encourage it.
One popular claim is that we need migrants to save our welfare state – which is absurd. Are migrants supermen who don’t get ill, don’t need education or transport or housing, and don’t get old? They actually add to the pressures on our overcrowded hospitals, schools, transport systems and houses.
The government has admitted to the European Commission that it doesn’t have any figures on how many EU nationals claim benefits here, so how could the TUC possibly claim that “migrant workers contribute more in taxes than they receive in benefits”?
Immigration is asset-stripping – taking from poorer countries their younger, more educated and skilled people. Migration undermines the home countries’ development, and increases their dependency. The EU’s 2001 Code of Practice for the Active Recruitment of Healthcare Professionals is voluntary for the private sector, allowing poaching. Since this Code was issued, there has been a surge in medical migration. Many African and Caribbean countries have more of their home-trained doctors working in the OECD countries than at home. Some 90 per cent of Jamaica’s nurses and 90 per cent of Haiti’s nurses work in OECD countries. This brain drain widens world health inequality.
Just as Zionists claim that anti-Zionism is really anti-semitism, the ultra-left claim that opposition to border controls is racism. One could indeed be against the EU, or against immigration, for racist reasons. But we are against them because we know that EU membership, and mass immigration, are bad for the British working class.
Reactionaries use this smear of racism to cover their support for the neoliberal policy of free movement of labour, which is the twin of the free movement of capital. Free movement of labour is part of the process of capital accumulation.
Supposed internationalists back the free movement of labour on the grounds that migrants grow our national economy. But if they do, they can’t be growing their home countries’ national economies. Their productive labour benefits employers in Britain, at the expense of their home countries.
British Jobs for British Workers is a call for full employment, for the right to work. You could only call it racist if you assume that all British workers are white Anglo-Saxons – which would mean that you had the racist notion of pure-bred Britons. So the ultra-left who decry British Jobs for British Workers as racist are the ones guilty of racism.
The GMB’s Paul Kenny said British Jobs for British Workers “could play into the hands of racists and bigots”. Would the slogan Polish jobs for Polish workers cause the same alarm? Are we supposed to demand Polish jobs for British workers? Or British jobs for Polish workers? In the Universities and Colleges Union, we hear some people call for places in London colleges for London’s young people, but then decry British Jobs for British Workers! Not very consistent, not very logical.
Currently, government and vice-chancellors prioritise recruiting rich foreign students. If our colleges don’t prioritise educating Britain’s young people, who will? Chinese colleges? I don’t think so.
Yes, employers use migrant workers to cut costs. Yes, recruiting migrant workers prevents the development of more high-skill, high-technology production. Yes, we have all too little labour-market regulation, no proper skills training, and hardly any apprenticeships. Investment in skills training, and better wages and conditions, would cut the demand for migrant workers.
A particularly destructive and insidious approach to creating cheap labour is the use of “posted workers”, sent by their employers from one EU country to another for temporary work. Foreign subcontractors, temp agencies and hiring companies employ millions of them on subprime wages and conditions across the EU – including ten to fifteen per cent of the building workers in Britain. The wage floors applied to posted and migrant workers are well below the going rates in national industries. The European Court of Justice restricted posted workers’ rights to a minimum and then outlawed all attempts to improve them. So it is hard for our trade unions to organise these workers. So much for the EU social model!
What is the real EU social model? The 1957 Treaty of Rome, the EEC’s founding treaty, laid down “the abolition, as between Member States, of obstacles to freedom of movement of persons, services and capital”. The aim was and is to create a more flexible labour market. The 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam laid down that only the EU had competences in the areas of migration and asylum.
Who runs the EU? The European Roundtable of Industrialists, composed of the CEOs of the biggest corporations, is the real power in the EU. It drives all for the employers, all against the working class.The IMF, the World Bank, the CBI, all back the EU’s three freedoms.
The European Commission always pushes for the free movement of labour: in 1997 it produced its Action Plan for Free Movement of Workers; in 2002, an Action Plan for Skills and Mobility; in 2006 a “Year of Workers’ Mobility”; and for 2007-10, a Job Mobility Action Plan.
All the EU’s Free Trade Agreements include Mode 4, installing the free movement of labour, and not just within the EU. In the EU/India Free Trade Agreement, talks, for example, India’s sole demand is for worker entry access. It would let any Indian firm supply temporary workers to any British industry. Employers will get the gain (investment opportunities in India) and British workers will get the pain (lost jobs).
What is the effect of EU policy here? By January, 2.3 million European nationals were living in Britain: 551,000 were unemployed or economically inactive and 146,000 had never worked. The number of the economically inactive has risen by 23 per cent since 2008 and that of those who had never worked is 30 per cent higher. Existing EU free movement rules gave them access to benefits and the social assistance system, the right to live here and automatic permanent residence after five years.
In 2004 the Labour government gave immediate labour market access to the nationals of the eight new central and eastern European EU members, supposedly to expand “selective migration”. Orthodox economists chorused that this would grow the economy. The Home Office said 13,000 at most would come. In fact, we had the biggest wave of immigration in our history: 494,000 that year. 2.3 million people arrived here during the Labour governments, plus an estimated one million illegal migrants.
New EU members are having their populations stripped. By 2009, five million had left the eight countries that joined in 2004. Some 10 per cent of the population of the Baltic States have left just since the economic collapse of 2008.
Belarus, by contrast, rejected capitalism, rejected the IMF and rejected the EU, so it enjoys full employment, free healthcare, free education and its decent Soviet-era pensions continue to be paid, on time. And so people come to it, rather than leave: its population is on the increase while rising numbers of people are fleeing the stricken south of Europe, fleeing the effects of the euro. One million people left Spain alone from early 2011 to mid-2012.
There is also people trafficking, the world’s third largest illegal money-making enterprise, after running weapons and running drugs – the UN estimates it could be worth $12 billion a year. A 2003 estimate was that nearly one million people were being trafficked every year, including possibly 175,000 a year from Russia and Eastern Europe’s countries.
Free movement of labour also assists criminals to move goods and people across borders. Once the traffickers and their victims are inside the European Union, all member nations are fair game and movement for organised crime becomes relatively free.
Traffickers use Britain as a transit point to other EU members, partly because there is no requirement for interviews when children are brought into Britain, unlike in France and the USA. The lack of exit checks also assists traffickers. The Labour government ended these checks in the 1990s; the present government pledged to reinstate them by 2015, but Clegg admitted recently that they wouldn’t meet this pledge. Funny how Cameron uses Clegg to announce broken promises. Is his real job title the Minister for Broken Promises?
Countries have the right to regulate entry; they can prevent or reduce migration. Opening our doors in January to all Bulgarians and Romanians will create an even greater oversupply than we already have. Scarce jobs will become even harder to find and employers will have every incentive to reduce wages.
Why are we opening our doors? Is it because Parliament decided to ? Or that the people decided so in a referendum? No, it’s because the EU is ordering us to do so. We should decide, not the EU. Would they have jobs to come to? No – they would be competing for scarce jobs with indigenous British people, black and white. A greater supply of labour would force wages down even further and put extra strain on our housing, healthcare and education. So we need a stop to new entrants.
A recent Financial Times poll, showed 83 per cent of us want less migration, raising the issue of power: Who decides? Is it us, or the EU for us? In 2007, Britain opted out of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. Now the European Court of Justice, for the EU, has opted us in. What next? Will the EU opt us into the euro?
We need a referendum as soon as possible, so that we can leave the EU as soon as possible. We have to organise in our workplaces, revive our trade unions and stand and fight where we are.
We need to take responsibility, decide what level of migration we want, and then make it so. ■