Following on from the decision to leave the EU and the rhetoric coming from some quarters as a consequence of BREXIT, the Scottish Rank and File believes that in order for our members working in the Construction Sector to have all the benefits of our collective agreements, we should unite and fight against unscrupulous employers, where they seek to undermine those agreements, with the likes of BESNA and agency employment etc., and their utterly reprehensible and criminal behaviour manifesting itself in blacklisting, but it is also imperative that we challenge, head on, the exploitation of migrant labour.
We know that there are issues, on sites up and down the country, where migrant labour are being used by employers, whether it is by companies but predominantly agencies, to undercut the terms and conditions if the indigenous workforce, however, what we as a movement, must not allow, is the tactics of divide and conquer to prevail, by dragging us down to the level of the baying mob. We must take responsibility in challenging the fever pitch finger pointing that goes on and educate our fellow workers, that it is not the individual foreign worker who is undercutting our terms and conditions, it is not the worker with a poor grasp of English that has stolen your job. We must make it clear that it is the fault of that despicable employer and that if we fail to deal with them, then it will have an adverse effect on our standards of living and earning potential for years to come.
Big business constantly moan about the lack of skilled workers to fill the vacancies in construction, a situation that they helped create. Their under investment in training and skills is responsible for the skills shortage in all trades that we’re experiencing now, but surely the answer is quite simple. These same voices from industry, and indeed from our Governments, would be better off creating more apprenticeships to provide the skilled workforce they never tire of moaning about.
However, whilst investment in apprenticeships and training is widely accepted as necessary and is supported by the Rank and File and Trade Unions, short termism is still the order of the day and it is far and away a whole lot easier for employers to utilise the services provided by agencies as a quick fix. But this method in itself is not sustainable as employers are realising that this short sighted approach to fulfilling their Labour requirements has led directly to the lack of skilled workers entering the labour market from traditional apprenticeships and by using agencies who we have always known to be parasitic bodies that only take from our industry and at the same time put absolutely nothing back into it by way of training and apprenticeships.
So, now we have the situation where employers outsource skilled labour from abroad where employers relish the hostile attitudes on British construction sites where foreign workers often feel isolated and unwelcome. How can we organise and integrate those workers into the trade union under these circumstances?
We now have the perfect storm for exploitation, not only of the migrant worker, but of indigenous British workers as they divide and conquer. We are too busy blaming and pointing fingers at our foreign colleagues, working next to us, doing the same graft, that we have taken our collective eyes of the ball and are letting the real culprits get away with undercutting our terms and conditions. Some would say, we’ve only got ourselves to blame.
So, the question remains. How do we stop this exploitation, attacks on our industry terms and conditions, and bring about that investment in skills and training so that we have a sustainable industry fit for future generations?
It’s up to every one of us to take the time to embrace our overseas comrades to ensure that they benefit from our collective agreements and the protection of being part of a trade union. That is the best way to end this abuse.
We know this is easier said than done, but unless we stop this easy source of cheap labour by bringing these fellow workers on board and uniting with them, the employers can and will continue to undermine our union national agreements and ultimately your pay packet!
There is no other viable alternative to countering this problem, we must work together, we must educate and we must fight side by side, because if we don’t, we will be beaten by our own failings. We have to realise that unity is strength and division is a weakness too easily exploited by our real enemies.
Time to stand up for equality in construction