Sunday, February 01, 2009

Total IREM wildcat strikes and civil unrest

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.


Red Green Nick said...

Plenty of discussion on Socialist Unity website from the left. GPTU statement should come soon.
I don't think Green Left members all disagree with some form of social credit.

Joseph said...

Some of us have been busy at demos and conferences over the weekend Richard and not always able to respond immediately. Also it is necessary to analyse the nature of the protests. It would be quite easy for the BNP to exploit the whole "British Jobs for British Workers" and in fact it is all over their website.

Many of the problems stem from recent European Court rulings on social dumping, especially relating to cheap labour. But there are many aspects to this dispute and it is a bit cheap to have a shot at the left as you did in your comment re "reading Kapital".

Below is the statement from the Green Party Trade Union Group which was issued on Friday.

Some ideas for a statement lets try and say something sharpish

"Recession combined with globalization and the weakening of Labour laws in Europe, is providing some employers with the incentive and the means to minimize their wage costs and weaken the bargaining power of organised workers. Recently this has taken the form of subcontracting out work to firms employing workers from abroad which is being opposed by industrial action under the slogan “British jobs for British workers”.

This is just the sort of situation that could be exploited by the far right and unions and politicians sharing their aims should be pushing for the restoration of nationally binding wage agreements and re-empahsising their anti-racist and internationalist policies.

British unions should follow the example of their French comrades and take united action against the way that workers are being made to pay for a crisis which is not of their making and campaign for a concerted program aimed a constructing at ecologically sound infrastructure for a new economic and social order. "

DocRichard said...

Glad to hear it, RedGreen, I'll go and take a look.

Joseph, welcome, and thanks for your esteemed contribution. I took a friendly poke at the Left because a prominent member of GreenLeft continues to support the notion that the banksters have a divine right to a monopoly of the creation of money by lending it at interest for private profit, while another (I forget who) has characterised the Overview of Green Economics as "mad" without providing any supportive evidence.

Otherwise, I am fine with the GreenLeft, in fact I believe that human beings are social animals too.

Anonymous said...

"... maybe they have to trawl through Das Kapital first to find a text which will show them what is the correct line to take..."

Thanks for that Doc, and the other laughs on your blog. Some people do need to work on their humour muscles a little. Being able to laugh at yourself can get you a long way too. Resisting that old knee-jerk impulse to abuse as "mad" anyone who you don't think you like the sound of what they're saying, also helps smooth social interchange. Strange but true!

I'm with the statement where it refers to globalization. Globalization is one of the big problems we all increasingly face now, thanks to this rotten government pushing it down our throats for the last decade. It's certainly at the root of this particular problem, imo.

The Globalization Project would never even be possible to contemplate without oodles of abundant and cheap oil, so hopefully it will collapse soon. It is a social and environmental disaster.

Talking of finance, did you hear Tarek El Diwany, founder of Islamic Finance, and the Right Reverend Peter Selby, the former Bishop of Worcester talking about the need for getting rid of the debt culture with no-interest (usury-free) banking this morning on Radio 4 Today programme, 08:48 ?

Momentum for reform is definitely growing, I feel.

DocRichard said...

Hi Dona
Your kind remarks encourage me to keep on keeping on.

I have deleted the poke at the Left, because they are now on the case.

I only caught the last part of the interviews on Today - thanks for the links. So now the Today listeners are apprised of the Forbidden Knowledge - that money is created by private banks out on nothing, out of debt (only now it's been spun to "credit") for private profit.