Polish Migrant Workers
Letter to Herald E xpress 310806 ;
As a TGWU member I was delighted to read of Cllr Jennings; leader of the Torbay Liberal Democrat council group, lending his continued support to ensure that the same employment rights are afforded to Polish workers, especially in relation to the national minimum wage. The trade union maxim of equal pay for work of equal worth needs to be enforced for equality before the law is a cornerstone of democratic society that needs to be upheld. The council are therefore to be commended for producing 'Know Your Rights' leaflets in Polish to attempt to realise this goal. This follows organising and recruitment materials produced by the TGWU with similar aims in mind.
In contrast to Mark Dent of UKIP's thinly disguised opposition to the influx of Polish workers I'd prefer to recognise the positive contribution individuals from the new EU member states are making in our tourist industry, care sector jobs and, indeed, even in my own workplace. What is needed are initiatives to confront the bay's low wage economy as it impacts upon all our communities, irrespective of ethnicity. This is, of course, a more difficult longer term proposition than seeking electoral support for the populist but chauvinistic position that UKIP subscribes to.
Finally I'd like to suggest to readers that the quest for equitable employment practices should not be conflated with the issue of immigration. The latter is an issue of ongoing policy debate. The former is about the application of existing employment law.
This is in response to the following story from the 290806 edition of the Herald Express :
Three Polish hotel staff working in separate establishments and a nightclub worker from France have been exploited by Torquay employers.
All four were paid less than the minimum wage, one receiving just £3.50 an hour.
And the nightclub worker was warned by his boss he would be deported if he complained to anyone.
The minimum wage varies: £5.05 per hour for workers aged 22 years and older; and £4.25 per hour for workers aged 18 - 21 years.
The shocking facts came to light during a drop-in advice session aimed at the Bay's migrant workforce and staged by The Transport and General Workers Union at the Acorn Centre.
Bay councillor Gordon Jennings, who is also the TGWU branch secretary, believes there are many more underpaid migrant workers in the resort who are too frightened to come forward.
He said: "We staged the session to tell migrant workers about their rights of employment in the UK and we picked up four who were not being paid the minimum wage with threats alongside it.
"The French guy working in a nightclub was told by his employers that if he divulged what he was getting they would have him deported.
"Obviously, they can't do that but he was very worried and thought they could.
"The three hotel workers were not aware they were being paid less than the minimum wage until they came to the drop-in session.
"I am concerned there could be others that are frightened to come forward because they have received similar threats.
"These people have a legal right to work in this country and it is illegal to pay them below the minimum wage."
The hotel workers from Poland are now all being paid the minimum wage, after TGWU representatives spoke to their employers.
Cllr Jennings continued: "This sort of thing is why it is so important to inform them of their rights when they are working in this country."
"As a councillor I have taken this back to the council and we have produced some 'know your rights' leaflets written in Polish which are available at Torquay Library and the job centre.
"These are the sort of things that should be in place to help people coming into the Bay from Europe to find work.