UK

British jobs for British workers – a racist movement?

Unemployed British Labourers are now in their third week of staged protests against lower pay for their foreign counterparts. And rightly so - government statistics show that while over 200,000 immigrants were given jobs in the last quarter of 2008, nearly 300,000 UK-born workers lost theirs. However, the action is being marred by an unofficial movement of childish bullying at work and an overly keen interest from the British National Party, as our Polish Observer in the UK tells us.

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The Conservative Party is vandalised for campaigning in favour of immigration caps. Image: Nic Walker on Flickr.

Unemployed British Labourers are now in their third week of staged protests against lower pay for their foreign counterparts. And rightly so - government statistics show that while over 200,000 immigrants were given jobs in the last quarter of 2008, nearly 300,000 UK-born workers lost theirs. However, the action is being marred by an unofficial movement of childish bullying at work and an overly keen interest from the British National Party, as our Polish Observer in the UK tells us.

In the most recent demonstration 400 people gathered at a power station in Nottinghamshire on Wednesday, demanding that British workers are given the same opportunities as foreign labourers and that pay is the same for both groups. The movement is largely caused by a growing discontent amongst British labourers of which increasing numbers have found themselves jobless in the economic crisis. But the rift has led to worries over racism and nationalism in Europe's most eurosceptic country, after the British Nationalist Party threw their support behind the protestors. While Union chiefs say the BNP has nothing to do with it and British workers insist that they're not being racist, some foreign labourers report being subjected to petty bullying at work, even to the point of losing their jobs.

"The BNP are exploiting this for political reasons"

Posted by an anti-fascist activist "UKfightback".

Protesters from Nottinghamshire insist that they're not interested in collaborating with the BNP. They say that when the BNP turned up to last week's Lindsey Oil Refinery protest, the workers called the police, who ordered the gatecrashers to go away.

"Workers in Cumbria have been receiving ‘go back to Poland’ notes"

Daniel Krzyszczak is a unionist organiser for northern Trade Union Congress in the UK. Originally from Szczecin, north-east Poland, he moved to Sunderland three and a half years ago where he worked as a kitchen porter and a chef before joining TUC.

I know a Polish factory worker who was bullied by his British colleagues and his employer did nothing. They'd glue his shoes to the floor, throw rubbish at him as he walked past, put things in his shoes. Really childish stuff, but eventually it caused him to lose his job. I also have a Polish friend, a cleaner, who was fired because her supervisors forced her to use the wrong chemicals and then blamed it on her. She was also forced to do things that the other didn't have to and was marginalised, never being allowed to go on a break while the others smoked outside and told to clean things that wouldn't normally be. She was the only foreign worker there. Indeed we can't prove that it was because these people are foreign, although sometimes cases are overtly prejudiced. Recently workers at a factory in Cumbria have been receiving notes that say things like ‘go back to Poland', and that's happening in many places.

It's getting much worse with the crisis. It's like at the beginning, in 2004 when everyone started arriving and the Brits got angry. It had got better after a few years, but now so many people are losing their jobs, it's causing problems for us."

"Companies prefer to hire foreign welders"

Over a hundred Facebook groups have been created over the affair. Chris Sizer, a welder from Wales, created one of them - "British jobs for British workers" - and it's already gained over 65,000 members.

I started the group as I was annoyed at the high rate of unemployment while companies still prefer to hire foreign labour to save money. I know a man who applied for a job at a [power] plant, and was declined because he was British even though he was fully qualified. He was asked in the interview if he was [British], and then told that he shouldn't apply. A plant is opening soon that only wants British workers for canteen staff and security, which is only 25%. Plus they've built accommodation for the foreign workers to live in, so the community won't benefit from renting houses. So there's just no benefit at all to the area. The unemployment rate has risen to 6.1%, which means more British people have to go on benefits to be able to live, which is costing the Government more money. Depression from being out of work may also put a strain on our health care system too.

I finished my job recently and I'm finding it very hard to find another one because as a welder you find that companies prefer to hire foreign labour. I also have a baby due soon, so I am desperate. I didn't start the group to be racist, and it isn't aimed at the foreign workers themselves as I can see why they want to work in a country that pays them better. I just want the government to begin to do something about it, such as making it a legal requirement for large British based businesses to use at least 60% British labour."