Gordon Brown’s pledge to create “British jobs for British workers” came back to haunt him yesterday when a dispute over foreign labourers sparked a wave of industrial unrest.
Wildcat strikes flared at more than 19 sites across the country in response to claims that British tradesmen were being barred from construction jobs by contractors using cheaper foreign workers.
Mr Brown, in Davos for the World Economic Forum, was caught by surprise when a ten-day-old strike at an oil refinery in Lincolnshire sparked copy-cat action at other energy plants. Unions claim that British workers are being barred from jobs because of a European Union directive which allows companies to bring in foreign labour for less than they would have to pay to Britons.
As the Pub Philosopher puts it :
Most of those protesting against the use of foreign labour in British plants are not racists. They just hold the quaint old view that the nation state should put its citizens first and that companies licensed to operate in this country should be under an obligation to employ British people ...But Steve, the terms of debate have been changed. The idea that Britain should put its citizens first is racist as far as the Labour Party and the unions are concerned. Lots of foreign workers = "we're not racist". And naturally the capitalist class (aka 'industry') wants to encourage a global labour market - it drives down their costs (aka 'wages').
(Another reason why the social-working classes don't mind globalisation is that their jobs won't be the ones being offshored. The manufacturing and the clerical work can go to China and India but you still have to have teachers, doctors, lawyers (though not legal secretaries), diversity consultants and anti-racist 5-a-day smoking cessation co-ordinators physically present on UK soil. 'Follow the money' as Marx so rightly said.)