A poisonous form of modern slavery

    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
    sick notes.

    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 .


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