Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The Future of Organising Migrant Workers


An interesting article in this Sunday's Observer reminded many observers of the subject that the significant migration to the UK following the accession of 8 new states (often referred to as the A8 accession states) to the EU is now in the decline. It is no new news to anyone who understands migration that it ebbs and flows. This is essentially what makes the blatant racism of bodies like MigrationWatch so disgraceful. This type of body, just like the BNP, can never answer the purely cyclical capitalist demand of, for example fruit pickers. I take this example as ironically in the same edition of the Observer apple growers bemoan flexibility in the government's changed stance on the numbers of migrant students allowed temporary visas to undertake this seasonal work. Read the Observer article below:

A more union-specific point I wish to make however is, alas again, how short-sighted the UK trade union movement is in only making an effort so secure the recruitment of migrant workers in the face of A8 accession when in fact migration is perpetual phenomenon of the UK economy.

Let's hope that the structures and resources that UNITE for example have put into organising the migrant worker is more than the usual flash in the pan.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.




GT said...

Hi Ian,

As you say in your post there has been a lot reported in the press about fluctuation in migration amongst those from A8 countries.

I remember a good piece in the Guardian last year about what the (catholic) churches were having to do in London for those who came to the UK and found as usual that the streets (especially those manky ones London) were not paved in gold.

As with young workers the movement seems to flit about in the crisis it has partly made seeking a remedy to an illness that cannot be cured.

Whether young workers or foreign - sadly, the movement is at an impasse that it cannot shift past.


Ian Manborde said...

Hi Graham,

Although we have long-discussed the failings of the TU movement I don't agree that we are the impasse you suggest.

I do agree that the movement has done it's usual spend-a-lot get-a0little in the context of MWs. At the same time however the movement has done great work in highlighting great abuses.


Alan said...


Who are 'migrants' in truth in the history of the British isles?

Ian - you are right. Get ready to organise any worker from overseas on a regular basis always.


Ian Manborde said...

Hi Alan,

Many thanks for simply stating the issue facing the movement.

The past 2-3 years has seen a burst of activity around the issue of migrant workers. Almost as if they were a new phenonemon.

The impetus and momentum needs to be maintained.

Whether it will given the original data I cited remains to be seen.



Ian Manborde said...


Just another point to add here which is that next weekend (5-7 Sep) I am delivering a course for the GFTU on this subject.

Joining me will be Ian Fitzgerald of Northumbria University. Ian has played a pivotal role in the UK in defining the impact of increased A8 migration in the UK and charting the trade union response.

In addition Barry Faulkner will join us with a great record as TU studies tutor and as someone who has worked extensively in the logistics sector with the United Road Transport Union (URTU). Sectors like those covered by URTU e.g. warehousing etc. has seen massive growth in the employment of migrant workers and Barry's insight will be valuable.

I'll let you know how we get on.