times cost cutting used to justify the same kind of hiring of foreign workers being talked
Many years ago I was working for a large blue chip, they trade under another name these
days but they were well known under their old name so I’ll not mention it. They were
based near a location made famous by Lorraine Chase though.
Anyway a board level decision was made to reduce the costs in the company. This time it
was the IT department taking the hit, previously they had decided that the aircraft
maintenance team was unneeded (another clue there).
The engineers were highly regarded throughout Europe, Boeing in the US sent engineers
to work alongside them and a number of other companies came to them for advice and
maintenance. Still it was decided that they were to go.
So most of them lost their jobs. Many of them were lucky and were immediately taken on
by another company just up the road who also flew Boeings. The company went from
generating revenue from other companies sending them aircraft to be overhauled to
spending more money than the engineering department cost getting aircraft looked after
by external people who provided a worse service as well. Less aircraft available, more down
time, more faults and failures.
So anyway we had an idea of what was to happen.
My team was told we were for the chop, several used contacts in the company to get jobs in
other departments. The rest left the company. I was told that my Contract would not be
renewed but in the mean time I was asked to train the replacement team in the company
This was how I met a nice group of young men from South Africa, hired from University there
and on 1 year working Visas. They were cheerful, enthusiastic, hard working and desperate for work.
They were flown in, given a job while the visa lasted, provided with room and board and then at
the end of their contract they were cut loose and replaced with others. Oh and they were being
paid a little over £6,000 in total which even at that time was very low.
They had no experience, no training other than a few weeks following me around and they were
taking over most of the companies IT. In reality they were gophers and phone answerers. The
company they worked for had a few decent techs in an office in London who told them what to do.
Once the year was up they would be dumped, no visa, no job. If they were lucky they could apply
for a vias extension or they had saved the money for a flight home and some experience that would
help them find a job there.
Servers, PCs, operations. All of the IT teams were cut down in size and replaced. Net result,
response time increased significantly, complaints rocketed. In an effort to answer criticism more
gophers were hired, they went from a baker’s dozen to over 20 before I left. Oh and the cost, well
officially it was a saving. But only from an accountants point of view. When the business analysis
team took a good hard look at the hidden costs of delays, non functioning IT, staff not working
because of server or network failures and the many other costs that come from bad IT it cost
quite a bit more. Strangely that report never made in out to the world.
Another company I was with for a few weeks, a regional dispatch centre for a major supermarket.
Most of the staff were Eastern European, most of them either spoke no English or pretended not to.
The dispatch centre packed individual cages for shops. Each shop had a list and items were taken
from pallets and loaded into cages for the shops.
Speed was everything. Watching the staff race round literally crushing food into the cages in order to
do enough circuits was disturbing. Fail to do enough circuits in the week and they were fired.
One of the supervisors told me that as long as wastage was 15% or so no one cared. The shops
received damaged and crushed food and sent it back with the empty cages, the arrival of the return
Lorries was a frenzy of looting, the supervisors went through the returns and then what was left was
up for grabs. A few people told me that many of the foreign workers depended on the waste grab for
much of their food.
This was several years ago but I suspect that the same thing still goes on.
I have seen agency staff arrive by minibus at places where I have worked, I have spoken to staff that
live six or eight to a house provided by the Agency. I have worked with companies where it is no
longer possible to be employed in manual jobs unless you speak the foreign language, companies
where supervisors and managers are sent on language courses so they can give orders to the staff.
I have walked the corridors of companies that put up health and safety signs in four or more languages.
Companies that have half empty car parks because many of the manual labour staff arrive by bus or car
and those vehicles then drive off and return in the evenings.
I have spoken to the staff of a recruitment centre about why they are advertising jobs in polish to be
greeted with shrugs and an off the cuff comment that if you cannot read the sign they will not hire you.
This is nothing new. It has been going on for many years.
These staff are often provided with accommodation that comes out of their wages, they are not covered
by such Laws as the Agency Workers Rights Act.
The agencies that provide them sell them to companies for less than the cost of a British worker and still
make a profit which gives you an idea of how little they are paid.
I have to ask myself, has the Shadow Immigration Minister only just noticed, or is Chris Bryant breaking
ranks and speaking out about something that all three of the political parties have been ignoring for at
least a decade?
British Law has, over the years, enshrined many protections for workers. It is an ongoing battle between
less than scrupulous employers and workers rights groups to keep up with each other.
The ongoing debate about zero hours contracts and locked in contracts is simply the most recent round
of the fighting.
I have no problem with capitalism, or with companies of individuals making a decent profit. What I have a
problem with is that the UK, the country that gave the world the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 which led
directly to the end of slavery across the western world is to all intents and purposes turning a blind eye
to its return.
Just because you pay someone a few pounds an hour to work does not mean they are not a modern day
When working conditions are sub standard, when your staff are crammed three or more to a room
When they are terrified of being sacked if they complain or fail to work as hard as needed.
When they are denied the protection of law and rights.
When they are bought and sold in batches to work long hours for managers that would have felt at home
in a Dickensian mill owners meeting.
Then they are modern day slaves.
The whips may now be threats and the chains may be financial but they are still slaves.
Manufacturing jobs have relocated to countries where the workers are low paid to reduce costs. Places
like distribution centres which cannot move are instead relocating the low paid workers to the UK instead.
This is nothing new.
Millions out of work, hundreds of thousands of British workers priced out of the job market by the minimum
wage laws that were intended to protect them from exploitation.
Business as usual, nothing to see here, please move along.