by Kevin Meagher
Every mention of immigration is pored over for what the person raising it really means.
Ed Miliband’s piece in yesterday’s Independent on Sunday is pretty clear. A Labour government will close the loophole in the EU’s Agency Workers Directive that allows some companies to undercut British workers by employing agency staff on less favourable terms. This is particularly an issue in sectors like food production and hospitality which use a lot of foreign workers, resulting in 300,000 people being paid less than the minimum wage.
Miliband’s is firmly a critique of neo-liberalism, not immigration per se. His ire is reserved for the excessive effects of labour market deregulation on people in the foothills of the economy. He isn’t saying British jobs for British workers in a chauvinistic way, he’s saying that for too many it’s a case of “brutish jobs for British workers” as a race to the bottom in terms of pay and conditions for the least protected undermines everything Labour should stand for.
As he put it yesterday:
“What chance of rising living standards for all when unscrupulous firms can exploit workers from abroad to get around the minimum wage?
What chance of giving everyone a fair shot when recruitment agencies are allowed to recruit only from overseas, excluding locals from even hearing about jobs?
What chance of skills for the next generation when too many employers can just import them without having to train people here? Who would have predicted that just 14 years into the 21st century IT apprenticeships would be falling? Not because we don’t need IT skills but because they are too often just brought in from overseas.”