In a significant move, the RMT (the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) has opened up discussion with an article in its magazine, RMT News, about how a Resident Labour Market Test could stop what the union calls “social dumping” – bringing in cheap labour from abroad to undercut British pay and conditions.
“The response of much of the ‘Left’, of most trade unions and the Labour Party, calling for equal conditions for migrant workers, is inadequate for many reasons but mainly that it is simply not working,” says the article. It adds that a Resident Market Labour Test would require renegotiating freedom of movement with the EU “on the grounds that it is overwhelmingly one-way and that the current situation is illegitimate” – and says that without renegotiation “the only way out is to leave the EU”.
Worldwide supplies of labour tip the scales away from workers towards capital. The EU aims to ensnare ever more, ever poorer, countries – Croatia (18 per cent unemployment), Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, countries across North Africa, and Turkey. Faced with this, the government’s Points Based System (PBS) actually brings in workers from outside the EU. Despite the government’s supposed cap, there are no limits on key PBS categories, such as transferees within the same corporation and foreign students (a major labour entry pathway with no exit monitoring).
Only one category of the PBS has a Resident Labour Market Test, as a result of the Lindsey Oil Refinery workers’ fine victory. Jobs must be advertised in specified places for a specified period before an employer can apply for a Tier 2 General Migrant visa. This should be required for all British jobs.
In the EU/India Free Trade Agreement, India’s sole demand is for so-called worker entry access. It would let any Indian firm supply temporary workers to any British industry. Again, the PBS sets no limits. Britain’s capitalists will get the “gain”, through investment opportunities in India, and British workers will get the pain, through lost jobs.
Evidence that new legislation, trumpeted by the European Union, has proved ineffective against social dumping, came last year with the dumping of RMT maritime members as Condor Ferries replaced British ratings with Ukrainian workers. Massive scope remains for shipping companies to pay lower wages to seafarers from non-EU countries. Condor Ferries employs Ukrainian seafarers on as little as £2.35 per hour (£28.19 a day for a 12-hour shift) to work three months on and one month off unpaid on routes between Portsmouth, Weymouth and Poole and the Channel Islands, inclusive of overtime, additional pay and captive time. They have no entitlement to leave or a pension. Other ferry operators work for only one or two months at a time, with the same period of rest off the vessel. ■