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16 Aug, 2013 13:06

Labour’s surrender monkeys dare not criticize Britain's conscript economy

Labour’s surrender monkeys dare not criticize Britain's conscript economy

Britain's shadow minister for borders and immigration, Labour's Chris Bryant, promised to take on the big corporations this week. But as his embargoed speech was leaked to big business, the nation watched his political resolve melt into nothing.

Friends and corporate funders of the ruling Conservative-led coalition have been sacking thousands of workers. They then market those same jobs to cheaper foreign workers, bringing misery to Labour's traditional working-class supporters.

Frequently those jobs are not even advertised in the UK. Former employees have to re-apply for their old jobs so long as they're prepared to accept worse pay and conditions.

Standing nervously behind the workers directly hit by this practice are millions of other apprehensive wage earners. They can see how this further corrodes what has become an increasingly brutal job market.

It is the dedication of staff, not just how much they're paid, that determines how good a service the public receives. Staff who know they can be sacked at the drop of a hat do what they are told by their managers out of fear, rather than respect. Before long that culture of fear impacts on everything a business touches.

From the voice on the phone, through quality control, to the customer facing staff, as the company's commitment to the employee goes down, so the glue that holds the business together starts to come unstuck.

The figures, of course, look good on paper. Boardroom presentations with those efficiency graphs zigzagging gradually up accompanied by photographs of smiling staff in neatly-pressed uniforms.

But as well-paid lobbyists for these multinationals successfully demand the erosion of employment rights, trust in these cost-cutting companies is undermined. Trust doesn't figure on the balance sheet, but it's the only truly important quality a company has (or doesn't have).

Britain's opposition Labour party immigration minister, Chris Bryant.(Reuters / Luke MacGregor)

This is one of the chief reasons why recruitment agency Office Angels found last week that over half of Britons in work want out of their present job, for the first time in decades. Off the balance sheet again: an unhappy company is a bad company.

Practices like these are turning the UK into a “conscript economy.” Thirty years of retreat from Labour's 1970s policy of full employment has tipped the balance between employer and employee off the scales, until the employer holds all the cards.

Yet, despite the slump, there seems no let-up in the flood of economic migrants moving to Britain. Last week's net migration figures show that in the year to June 2012, 165,000 people, or nearly 500 a day, moved to the UK.

On New Year’s Day 2014, Bulgarians and Romanians too are about to be allowed to work in the UK – boosting the net figure to over 200,000.

This influx is doubly bad, cutting both ways into UK disposable incomes. It helps keep house prices artificially high, and wages artificially low. So Labour has realized that not all critics of immigration are racists and, we are told, is seeing the error of its ways. 

Party chiefs, for the first time, have been weighing the rights of the British worker who loses their job against the right of the migrant to work anywhere in the EU. Weighing up, too, the good work an immigrant worker might do, against the cost to the British taxpayer of yet another British family on the dole.

So, for Britain's opposition party, standing up for dwindling employment rights should have been an open goal.

Yes, migrant labor is justified and welcome when a country has full employment but with, for millions, wages not enough to live on and real unemployment hovering around 10 percent, to low-paid workers bringing in migrant labor just drives them further into poverty.

So Labour’s Chris Bryant was going to weigh in this week to explain that Her Majesty's Opposition now thought it was wrong. A plea both to the origins of the Labour Party, standing up for the victims of cruel and greedy bosses... and to pragmatism. That it wasn't racist to discourage economic migration.

Reuters / Andrew Winning

"Take the case of Tesco, who recently decided to move their distribution centre...." he was due to say, "...staff at the original site, most of them British, were told that they could only move to the new centre if they took a cut in pay. The result? A large percentage of the staff at the new centre are from the Eastern bloc."

But Tesco's friends in the London media tipped them off with a leaked copy of the speech, so after a call to Labour Party headquarters from Tesco this became:

"Take Tesco. A good employer and an important source of jobs in Britain... Yet when a distribution centre was moved to a new location existing staff said they would have lost out by transferring and the result was a higher proportion of staff from A8 countries... Tesco are clear they have tried to recruit locally."

Rarely do we get the opportunity to see so transparently how meek our politicians have become in the face of corporate lobbying. Tory Tesco effectively rewriting the speech of an opposition politician, no doubt with strong-arming from Labour Party apparatchiks, too.

Bryant's key allegation about the cut in pay disappeared. Instead, Tesco is "a good employer" that has "tried to recruit locally." Dead on the cutting-room floor, too, is another fact that many low-paid UK jobs are not even advertised in Britain any more.

To the tune most of us know as “Oh, Christmas Tree” or “Tannenbaum,” Labour Party activists used to traditionally sing “Let’s Keep the Red Flag Flying Here” on May Day, which called for a worldwide, worker-managed utopia with no borders. But when the Labour Party is no longer allowed to criticize practices that take food out of children's mouths, throw hard-working people out of a job, and possibly onto the streets, that party may as well pack its bags.

If the present leadership is not purged, Labour may go the whole hog and, as in Greece, show its true blue colors by going into a formal coalition with the big corporations.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.