Monday, October 27, 2008

When the opposite of wrong is also wrong

Labourhome is carrying an article by someone called James Valentine (possibly one of our candidates in the European elections) about how he's got a friend who runs a company and hires Polish workers because British workers are not 'sufficiently reliable, diligent or hard working'. From this Valentine deduces that Phil Woolas is wrong and we need to sort out the education system, not the immigration system.

This is the kind of horrible muddle that well-meaning people sometimes get into. They start off trying to defend migrant workers against the likes of the idiot Phil Woolas, swallow a line being pushed by some employers because it supports their argument, and end up peddling the same kinds of prejudiced nonsense against British workers as others use about migrant workers.

Rather than picking sides in the Right Wing Death Match of 'lazy scroungers' vs 'thieving migrants', we need a set of policies which benefit migrant workers and unemployed Brits alike. That includes, just for a start, the not very difficult insight that if employers want well trained and highly motivated staff, they need to pay higher wages and take a bit more responsibility for training and supporting their employees, rather than pocketing the profits and leaving the government and taxpayer to pick up the tab.


At 12:56 am , Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

I'm glad someone is talking some sense on this, finally...

At 3:11 pm , Blogger Andreas Paterson said...

I think I met James Valentine when he came to help us with some campaigning in Norwich a few months ago, seemed like a nice enough chap. I do think you're right though this "lazy
british worker" is not a view we should be supporting.

His anecdote reminds me of a place I used to work that did mobile phone repair. The workforce on the repair floor was composed largely of migrants from the new EU states. Repairs were divided into three levels based on the extent of the repair required, standard engineers did levels 1 & 2, advanced engineers handled level 3 repairs.

Pay for basic engineers was somewhere in the region of £13,500, pay for advanced engineers was in the £17-£18K. It wasn't minimum wage work, but the pay wasn't exactly good, certainly not enough to retain talented people. Basically it's more a case of low rates of pay rather than lazy domestic workers.

At 4:11 pm , Blogger jdc said...

The entire discussion on that posting has demoralised me further than I already was about the disconnection of people who "think things about politics" from people who "live actual lives in the real world". It does worry me.

At 5:18 pm , Anonymous James Valentine said...

Hi, I have just detected your comments.

It should be possible to have a discussion about the difficulties some unemployed Brits face in getting into the employment market without being accused of prejudice. “Lazy scroungers” is your expression, not mine.

You blame the employers for everything but this seems more like a retreat into comfort zone then a practical suggestion. Employers obviously have responsibilities but it’s generally reckoned that the education system should be responsible for providing, at the very least, basic literacy, numeracy and communication skills.

Britain is traditionally very good at educating an elite but leaves a huge proportion without proper qualifications. Spending more on education as Labour has done doesn’t just help to provide a workforce, it allows young people to fulfil their potential and enrich their lives. That’s the current political divide – between Labour, that for instance provides EMAs and the Tories who are pledged to cut them – between Labour that allows young people who wish to go to university the opportunity to do so, and the Tories, who would stop them. Whose side are you on?

Yes, it is partly about pay and where there are significant pay differentials between British and immigrant workers (for instance where there is illegal immigration, which I didn’t touch on) then this can have pernicious effects. But in the case of some engineers and medics there just aren’t enough British applicants, even though the pay is high. In the case of maths and science teachers, there are still shortages in spite of better teachers’ pay generally and “golden hellos” as an incentive. In India, cultural attitudes to maths, science and engineering seem different. You can either hide your head in the sand about these tricky issues, or you can try and have a sensible discussion about them.

And yes, it’s “taxpayers money” going into education but it is surely socialist to see this as an investment in a fairer society, rather than just money down the drain, as you seem to imply.


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