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.