How low can you go? The government has failed in its attempt to
postpone, until after the general election, the publication of a
ground-breaking report on the exploitation of migrant workers.
Forced Labour and Migration to the UK was commissioned by the
TUC and the International Labour Organisation, a UN body which
promotes workers’ rights in 177 countries. It reveals how migrants
brought here illegally find themselves in long-term bondage:
blackmailed and intimidated – and often employed in the public
The report describes how Conrado, a qualified nurse, was brought
from Asia by an agency to which he paid £700 plus rent.
Working in the NHS, his monthly pay of £805 was cut to less
than £50 a week because deductions were made by the NHS trust
and handed to the agency as commission. That left Conrado with
about £1.75 an hour – a Third World rate in one of the world’s
most expensive countries.
A similar scheme is allegedly operating in some care homes.
After deductions given directly to the agency, illegal migrant
workers put in long hours for less than £45 a week.
This kind of exploitation of vulnerable people in our key
sectors is not only unjust, it also has a knock-on effect. The
government has announced that it intends to place a warm and
friendly “employment adviser” in GPs’ surgeries to stem the flow of
Incapacity benefit is highest in areas where the traditional
industries have been hardest hit – mining, steel, the docks. If
thousands are to be tempted back into the workforce, many men will
have to bite their lips and go into the service and care sector –
jobs once deemed only suitable for women.
In areas with few employment opportunities, the political right
can easily exploit the rumours that the few available jobs have
already been taken by “them”, the alien outsiders willing to put in
twice as many hours for a fraction of the money. This manifestation
of a deregulated market is not only bad for individuals and
community harmony, it also undermines the strenuous attempts made
through the minimum wage to boost the income of those employed to
care for others .
So, next time a care home boss or an NHS manager is requested to
dole out an unusually large slice of an employee’s wage to an
agency, they should think again. They are endorsing a poisonous
form of modern slavery – and, as a consequence, in different ways,
we’ll all pay .