Dave Landau argues that immigration controls aid the bosses.
Bob Crow, recently deceased leader of the RMT rail and maritime union, publicly stated shortly before his death that he welcomed migrant workers and was concerned to organise migrants in trades unions. He said that what he opposed was employers taking advantage of migrants. It is employers who undercut wages not migrants. We in the Independent Socialist Network (ISN) agree with Bob about this. But Bob, and others in TUSC still believe that immigration controls need to be stricter, particularly in relation to European workers. We do not agree. We believe that immigration controls are part of the problem not the solution
The race to the bottom
The bosses are constantly trying to get the most work out of people for the least wages. They will use every trick in the book to attack your wages and conditions and to try and get us to undercut each other. This is true of British bosses, Italian bosses, US bosses and multi-national companies. At the end of the day they are all capitalists and out to screw everything they can out of the workers. They exploit differences. They use the differences between nations, taking plant to countries where the wages and conditions are the lowest or trying to use national differences amongst the workers in the same country. If workers fight each other this plays right into bosses’ hands. We must join together to fight the bosses; fight for equality; fight for the same pay and conditions for workers of all nationalities here and between workers in different countries.
Immigration controls help the bosses in this fight. They create a situation where some people in the workforce are defined as “illegal” so that they are frightened to organise and can be paid well below the minimum wage and in some cases made into slaves. Despite this, they have been fighting back and the organisers are victimised and often isolated by the union leadership. ‘Legals’ have less rights than British citizens, other migrants have limited rights to benefits, threatened with having their rights to work removed if they defy the bosses and so on. The bosses use this to weaken the organisation of all workers. Immigration controls, with their workplace raids and papers checks, deportations and destitution are used to discipline the working class. We should oppose immigration controls and support migrants. European migrant workers currently have more rights than those from outside the EU. But if controls are made stricter and Europe and the rights of European workers are reduced this will create another layer of people labelled ‘illegals’ and hence more difficult to organise. So it is immigration controls not immigration which is the problem.
Romania and Bulgaria
Romanians and Bulgarians, unlike other migrants from Europe, have not had the same rights to work and claim benefits. This has made them more vulnerable to exploitation and working with bad wages and conditions. The gutter press, UKIP, and some in other parties, including David Blunkett in the Labour Party, have spread scare stories that the taking away of these restrictions will be a great threat to British workers. But taking away their special demeaning status increases the potential for unity against the bosses. Of course David Cameron’s response to this is to restrict access to benefits and services to all European workers, thus creating greater division, vulnerability and more weapons to use immigration to discipline the working class.
Same rate for the same job
We must oppose the European legislation which allows employers and agencies to pay workers in one country at the wage rates that would apply to the country from where migrants have come, e.g. paying Romanian welders in UK at the rates of pay of welders in Romania. This is an attack on all workers internationally.
Behind the nationalist and divisive slogan “British Jobs for British Workers” there is the genuine fear that workers can be removed from a job in favour of cheaper labour. The answer is to fight for secure and equal terms and conditions for all workers. No one should face involuntary redundancies, no one should be working on zero hours contracts, everyone should have decent terms and conditions regardless of their nation of origin or immigration status.
Freedom to stay – freedom to move
Unemployment can uproot communities and this is one of the worries for people here today. Around the world communities are being uprooted because of poverty, famine, multi-national companies digging up the land on which they depend for their livelihood, climate change creating flooding or turning the land into deserts, escaping wars fuelled by the arms trade and so forth. These make up many of the world’s migrants today. We are all in this together.
Not everyone moves because they are forced to. They are looking for a better life, to broaden their horizons, to join their families… many many reasons. People ought to have a right to move around the world. People have a right to settle around the world. And people have the right not to be forced to move for any reason.
No jobs but lots to be done
When there aren’t enough jobs to go around the cry goes up that we must reduce the competition. And so people blame the ‘foreigners’. But hang on a minute. There is a recession across the world. That is a big reason why workers migrate, including workers leaving Britain, looking around the world for work. But why are there not enough jobs? Is it that there is not enough to do? Are there enough houses being built, or being repaired? No. Is everybody healthy? No. Are there too many people employed to care for elderly and disabled people? No. The list goes on. The reason that there are not enough jobs is because the capitalist system is irrational. Only the things that turn a profit count. What people need goes out of the window. So let’s not blame each other. Let’s unite against the real enemy.
Further attacks we fight back
While we should be fighting against immigration controls the Government is introducing a new Immigration Bill which will increase controls and take away the rights of migrants and their access to services. They have the support of the other mainstream parties around most of their proposals. We must campaign against it. Workers in many professions will be expected to act as immigration police. Our policy, if this bill is passed, and we believe this should be the policy of the trade union movement, is defiance not compliance. We will not become surrogate immigration officers.
The working class is an international class. It is divided by nationalism, racism, sexism and imperialism into very unequal groups. We must fight for real equality and in doing so unite our class.