The current series of wildcat strikes in the UK, sparked by the decision of the Italian firm IREM to employ 400 Italian and Portugese workers in Total's Lindsey refinery is understandable but worrying. Worrying because the BNP will be trying to exploit the workers' anger to its own advantage, and because strikes are not exactly the best way to go about boosting UK plc out of recession.
INME's action is in accord with "The EU "posted workers" directive allows a European company to employ its own staff on a temporary project in another EU member state as long as it's for limited time and the company abides by local working conditions. The directive was introduced in 1996 to improve labour mobility in Europe while protecting the conditions of "posted" workers".
This directive is an example of that aspect of the EU that the Green Party wishes to change from within: its free-market "dys-economics".
The policy of moving workers around wholesale reduces them to the status of economic units, as if they were bits of machinery. This is seen in its purest form in Africa, where miners live in huge barracks, many miles from their families and communities, to the detriment of all concerned. The policy is also a driver of the increasing incidence of HIV/AIDS . Migrant working is not exactly an ideal situation, although clearly, in some cases, where the only skilled force available must be brought in from outside the area, it is necessary. When it is necessary, the living conditions and home time of the workers must be generously regulated.
[unnecessary prod at my GreenLeft colleagues deleted.]
BTW, I am not anti-Left. Some of my friends are socialists, and Conservatives always treat me as if I were a socialist, but then, anyone to the left of Chris Patten is a socialist to them.
I still find the GreenLeft's unwavering support of the right of private corporations to have a monopoly to create money out of debt for profit absolutely incomprehensible.
Back to the point. EU rules treat workers as economic units, conveniently forgetting that they are human beings with emotional needs. Migrant workers are torn from their families and communities. British workers get understandably angry. Emotions are left out of the EU dys-economic calculation.
How can this problem of migrant workers be resolved?
Workers with special skills who have to work abroad around need their rights and liberties to be fully protected.
But the real reason is that the migrant workers are cheaper, when valued narrowly, as in their wage bill. Green economics factors in the whole cost to society. In the green accounting system, migrant workers probably cost more than British workers. It is not unprecedented that British jobs are lost to cheaper foreign competition - it's been going on for decades. In the long run, the cost of living throughout the EU may level out, but in the mean time, the rules need to be tweaked so that the cost of foreign work is made truly comparable with the cost of a British worker.
This is not really my field, and I am sure that there is an economist in the Treasury who could do a holistic analysis of the true cost of foreign labour, factoring in such things as the SS costs for displaced British workers, extra NHS costs, the cost of policing the resulting demonstrations, the cost to the fabric of British society by giving the BNP a boost, and the loss to the British economy through wages sent back to Italy and Portugal.
Here's Caroline Lucas' take on it - the Posted Workers' Directive needs to be revised. The Green Group in the EuroParliament is working on it already.