Socialist Worker

An Olympic race to the bottom for migrant workers

Issue No. 2139

The right wing press has a new battle cry over the Olympics building site in east London – “East End jobs for East End workers”. Labour-run Newham council wants a showdown with Olympic officials over how many of the borough’s residents are employed on the site.

But who exactly qualifies as a proper East Ender? The area has been home to migrants for centuries. Do you have to be born in east London? Are east European workers living in the area to be treated as second class citizens?

Now it seems that a ridiculous competition is opening up between Tower Hamlets, Newham and other London councils over the percentage of Olympic workers from each borough.

Not only are “native” and “foreign” workers being pitted against each other, we now have the possibility of jobs being allocated on the basis of workers’ post codes.

If trade unions go down this road, it will lead to a dead end and disaster. Over a third of those employed on the site are “foreign” born.

Achieving union organisation, premium pay rates and proper safety conditions on the site will be impossible if workers are competing for jobs on the basis of where they were born or where they live now.

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What We Think
Tue 17 Feb 2009, 18:16 GMT
Issue No. 2139
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