Saturday, August 08, 2015

“Enough! Stop blaming us.”

Thousands of Polish people working in Britain are expected to take part in the first ever migrant workers strike in this country later this month. The protest, planned for Thursday 20th August, is the result of discussions on Polish internet forums by people angry at immigrants being blamed for Britain's economic problems. Britain’s economy could come to a standstill if hundreds of thousands of Polish workers went on strike.

The unofficial strike does not involve any trade unions. Jason Heyes, Professor of Employment Relations at University of Sheffield, warned: “The idea of a one-day strike is fraught with difficulties. The minimum necessary conditions for lawful strike action, including the existence of a trade dispute, would not be present so any workers deemed to be striking would not have the protection that is extended to workers taking lawful strike action.”

Not all Polish workers backed a walk out. Darek from Newcastle told the Polish Express: “I came here to work, and others as they want, then let them organize actions. Besides, I am afraid that the English will be after the strike, even worse attitude to the Poles than it is now.” And Elizabeth said: “The strike is a last resort. You can lose your job, the risk is huge... It's grist to the mill to get rid of these workers, and grist to the mill for Cameron.” 

Lawyer George Byczynski, coordinator of the British Poles Initiative, a campaigning group, explained “Many Poles are concerned that our nationality has been considered as a scapegoat in the immigration debate.” Rather than not turning up for work his group suggests that Polish people donate a pint of blood. Byczynski, told The Independent: “Everybody will find something for themselves in this protest, if somebody feels they are discriminated against they will be able to show the most positive thing that somebody can do, a very noble thing of just giving blood. It’s a purely positive thing to foster the British/Polish relations.”

Joanna Dabrowska, chair of the Conservative Friends of Poland, said: “Whilst striking is of the last resort, we fully support alternative community initiatives such blood donations.”
And Ella Vine, chair, Labour Friends of Poland, commented: “I think that the blood-giving initiative is great... and we should be doing more to integrate migrants better with our communities, encourage positive relationships and working together for common goals.”
Donating blood is one example of how people can “highlight their positive contribution to the UK in a constructive and positive way,” commented Jakub Krupa, head of the Poles in UK campaign, which promotes the positive contribution of the Polish community.

Poland tops the list for numbers of foreign citizens living in the UK accounting for 13 per cent of the 5 million total. This equates to around 650,000 Poles living in the UK, so any protest could have wide-reaching consequences.

Far from being a drain on the nation, migrants actually make Britain a more prosperous place, according to a major report by researchers at University College London last year. It found that immigrants from the European Union who came to Britain between 2000 and 2011 paid out £20 billion more in taxes than they received in benefits. There are more than six million foreign-born workers in Britain, accounting for one in seven of all in employment, according to Oxford University’s Migration Observatory. They make up more than a third of workers in food and clothing manufacturing, and more than a quarter of warehouse workers. And 31 per cent of cleaners and people working in food preparation and hospitality – ranging from butchers to cooks and bar managers - are migrant workers. Around 30 per cent of NHS doctors, and 40 per cent of nurses, are from overseas. One in five of carers are foreign workers, and tens of thousands of migrants work as fruit and vegetable pickers.

The Socialist Party does not attempt to direct workers resistance or decide their methods so regardless of what Polish workers choose to do we applaud their collective spirit in no longer wishing to remain the passive recipients of anti-immigration propaganda and misinformation.



Anonymous said...

Shame you are supporting this. I do not see Socialists supporting British ethnic minorities like myself who find themselves at the tail end of Polish racism when they arrive in the UK. Racism seems to be ubiquitous amongst the Polish people. In fact a study conducted by the EU observer outlined that" According to a 2013 study by the Centre for Research on Prejudice at Warsaw University, 69 percent of Poles do not want non-white people living in their country". They cannot plead victim hood when they are so very intolerant themselves towards non-white people!

ajohnstone said...

You are correct in that too often the victim becomes the victimiser. We only need to look at Israel and Palestine for that truth to be demonstrated only too clearly.

This blog does accept that the prevailing dominance of racist and anti-immigrant views is international and the blog has highlighted such prejudice from all regions of the globe. We have never claimed any ethnic/national group is exempt from it. Many immigrants pick up native habits and discriminate against others such as Asian or Africans is sadly what some do in a mistaken effort to assimilate. It is not unique to the Polish.

Our only criticism of the recent proposed action is that it failed to include all immigrants and there fore not fully inclusive. A strike of Hispanics took place in America not so long ago did not restrict the action to just Mexican or Honduran.

Any Polish worker who singles him or herself out as deserving special favours over other foreign or domestic workers on simply national grounds should not be defended.

Poland has racism and this blog has not ignored it.

We will continue to support attempts to overcome racism and nationalism although these will always have short-comings but from experience those hopefully will be remedied.

Your own generalisations of the Polish could well be deemed bigoted in tarring all Poles with the same brush, which is something for you to consider. Your own statistic says that 31% are not.

In conclusion to quote:
“There is a spreading perception in poor segments of Turkey that Syrians are stealing their jobs. This is scary. All weak actors tend to blame the easiest targets as the cause of their misery. Instead of taking on the state, militarism or capitalist classes as the culprits, it is easier for them to designate scapegoats.
“This is how racism and xenophobia work in Europe. Instead of showing anger to the boss who hires cheap labor, the anger is directed against the foreigner who accepts such a job. Turkey’s state, civil society and media has lot to do to prevent targeting of foreigners and to explain that the true guilty ones are other forces,”

That is our message which we will carry on issuing the best we can.

Mike Ballard said...

As long as labour power remains a commodity for sale on the market, the employing class will purchase for as low a price as they can get. How much would the employing class be willing to pay for workers' skills, if all the workers from Poland, packed up and went home to their unemployment lines?

ajohnstone said...

Maybe the same as they paid before they arrived, Mike, is that what you suggesting? I don't think so.

Anecdotally, i could not afford to pay a plumber his rate for the simplest of jobs even if i could find one willing to accept a small job. The influx of foreign workers i think did lower the rate by removing an almost monopolistic price being demanded. I recall that at the time many women were beginning to enter the trade which i think was a slower means of supply and demand re-adjustment. More unqualified "cowboys" were also offering their services.

But did this effect the OVERALL wage levels in the UK?

I think not. There were bigger and greater influences at work. The destruction of the unions, the development of part-time and no-hour contracts, the compulsory placement of the unemployed, cut-backs in public works. I'm sure you can add to the list from your own experience in Australia. All evidence from both the right and left think-tanks and governments accept there was just only a limited and often localised effect on pay and jobs by immigration. When there is a shortage of houses, schools and hospitals caused by spending cuts, it is easy to point the finger at what is most visible...increased demand by newcomers. We even had a prominent politician blaming road traffic jams on European immigrants with more cars on the UK roads...

Capitalism has always throughout its history had ebbs and flows of availability of labour and have always sought ways of rectifying it...deskilling...gender equality...and immigration both internal as in the migratory trends in US and China or from abroad as the UK did by inviting ex-Commonwealth. Australia too has a history on relying on immigration and i am sure many decry the arrival of later "poms" and we of course are aware that Asian immigration was discouraged for decades. What, btw, was the lasting economic effect of 175,000 Vietnamese arrivals?

I can only once more recommend Eugene Debs on immigration

"The plea that certain races are to be excluded because of tactical expediency would be entirely consistent in a bourgeois convention of self-seekers, but should have no place in a proletariat gathering under the auspices of an international movement that is calling on the oppressed and exploited workers of all the world to unite for their emancipation. . . .
Away with the “tactics” which require the exclusion of the oppressed and suffering slaves who seek these shores with the hope of bettering their wretched condition and are driven back under the cruel lash of expediency by those who call themselves Socialists in the name of a movement whose proud boast it is that it stands uncompromisingly for the oppressed and down-trodden of all the earth. These poor slaves have just as good a right to enter here as even the authors of this report who now seek to exclude them."

Mike Ballard said...

Funny that Debs believed that there are multiple 'races'. Guess he was a product of his time.

No, I'm not talking about 'races'. I'm talking about supply and demand for labour power. As you may know, one of the things capitalists who hire wage labour in Australian mining regions complain about and which is constantly pointed out in the bourgeois press is that the price of skills, like even driving a truck, brings a worker $100,000 a year. The capitalists are now investing in driverless trucks which are cheaper than hiring that labour power.

Why is that labour power so expensive?

Mostly, it's because of the lack of labour supply. Demand is there from those who own the product of mining labour. And Rio Tinto, BHP etc. makes billions in profits from selling the collective product of their wage-labourers. But, of course, they would like to pay a lower price for those skills and the 457 visa system is helping them along. Temporary stays in Australia for workers coming in from other countries are controlled by the political State via 400 series of visas.

BTW, if one can't afford commodities like the price of a plumber's skills, it's a really the case that the price of one's on skills are too low. Unions are a way to constrain the labour supply to keep the price of skills high. Just saying, under the rule of Capital, it's all about supply and demand and the commodification of labour power.

ajohnstone said...

New Zealand has i believe a shortage of labour, particularly in construction trades because of the rebuilding work in Christchurch from the earthquake and are recruiting heavily from Asian countries. They do however have a way for migrant workers to apply for permanent residency and bring over families.

I recall the debates on the closed shop and at the time the SPGB was unpopular for refusing to take a sectional stance in supporting them.

In regards to migrant workers, we have to also remember that we are members of the World Socialist Movement and defend the interests of all workers, not simply a section of them. This will also often result in friction but it is unavoidable.

ajohnstone said...

The impact of driverless car is referred to here

Anonymous said...

My letter to The Independent concerning "George" Byczynski's scab call (unpublished thus far):

I've written more about the man's shenanigans in an article last year:

ajohnstone said...

Would this be text of the letter to the Independent

"An item in the 8th August issue of The Independent cites Jerzy Byzczynski – or ‘George’ Byczynski, as he appears to call himself at the moment – calling upon Polish workers in the UK to donate “Polish blood” instead of participating in a planned migrant workers’ strike. Your journalist lauds this as a “protest of a more positive kind”.

Byczynski is a spokesperson for Patriae Fidelis (“loyal to the fatherland”), a UK based front organisation for the National Movement, which is a coalition of Polish far right and neo-fascist groups such as the All-Polish Youth and National-Radical Camp (ONR). Although Patriae Fidelis often presents itself as an innocuous support group for Poles living in the UK, a slogan on its website gives you an inkling as to which way the wind blows: “I am Polish, therefore I have Polish duties” – a quotation from Roman Dmowski, chief ideologue of the pre-war National-Democratic Party, which was violently hostile to Jews and the workers’ movement.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Jerzy Byczynski and his latest front group, the British Poles Initiative, are no fans of strike action and would rather donate some “Polish blood”. Polish migrant workers should ignore Byczynski’s scab call and instead participate in the migrant strike, which will hopefully be joined by workers of other nationalities." - Maciej Zurowski

Grateful for the further information you have offered on the background of British Poles Initiative and its leader.

And i appreciate your letter's final comment that the migrant strike should endeavour to be an ALL-migrant strike.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, yes - I accidentally posted the same link twice. But you found the correct text of the letter anyhow.