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This article by Alistair McConnachie appeared in the July 2003 issue of Sovereignty.

Alistair McConnachie published Sovereignty from July 1999 to its 120th consecutive monthly issue in June 2009, and he continues to maintain this website.
Alistair McConnachie also publishes Prosperity - Freedom from Debt Slavery which educates about the nature of our debt-based money system and A Force For Good which advocates the maintenance of the United Kingdom.
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A study published by the Trades Union Congress on the 14 July 2003 entitled Overworked, Underpaid and Over Here says that there could be up to 2.6 million migrant workers in Britain under the control of unscrupulous "gangmasters" and unregulated recruitment agencies and employers.

However, the purpose of the TUC report was not (surprise, surprise) to challenge the need for migrant labour in the UK in the first place, or to fight for better terms and conditions for indigenous British workers, but rather to bleat on and on, in typically politically-correct fashion, about the terms and conditions under which the migrant workers are employed, and to try to make such terms and conditions better.

But as this article argues, if the TUC were doing its job properly, these "migrant workers" needn't be here in the first place.

Some factoids:

There are an estimated 2.6 million migrant workers in Britain, nearly one in ten of all employees.

The number of work permits issued to migrants this year is expected to increase to 200,000, which is more than double the figure seven years ago. Migrants allowed in under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme increased to 25,000 last year.

The Government believes up to 5,000 gangmasters may be supplying 75,000 workers a year -- many of whom are here illegally -- to farms and packing houses.

This article addresses the issue of migrant labour in the British agricultural and horticultural industries.

The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme provides an army of 25,000 young people every year, mainly from Eastern Europe.

This is up from 10,000, and there are plans to raise this figure to 50,000. Workers can take agricultural employment for six months, after which it is illegal to stay.

However, there are no official figures on how many remain by either claiming asylum or disappearing.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the appalling state of Britain's border control, there is no official way of recording if any of them actually do leave the country once their time is up.

This entry of foreign workers should, however, be distinguished from illegal immigration, or permanent legal immigration.

These people are short-stay seasonal workers who are here on a temporary work permit and who should be leaving at the end of their legal contract.

In that sense, they are not "immigrants" as such. They are not necessarily intending to make their lives here. They are all counted in and they should all be counted out, if the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme were to check properly.

On top of this army of workers who, at least, enter legally, there are those who enter the country illegally, and are "employed" by gang masters in the black economy.

Gangs are employed by farmers who require Field Hands for vegetable and fruit picking. No British farmer wants to knowingly employ illegal labour. However, if the farmer employs the labourers via a gangmaster then he is not in a position to know, or to be able to check, the immigration status of the gang workers and he has nothing to go on -- other than trust in the gangmaster, and his intuition.

Workers are paid, sometimes above the minimum hourly rate, for their services. The gangmaster then takes his cost and margin, and pays the worker the rest. Gangmasters, however, are not required to register their business before they can operate. Consequently, there is an opportunity for unscrupulous gangmasters to exploit their workers, and to use illegal labour. Some of the reports have been saying that some gangs are being paid only around £1/hour.

According to a report in The Times of 24 July 2003 (Valerie Elliott and Adam Fesco, "Rich pickings for Triad gangs from farm labourers", p. 4) most gangmasters who traditionally supply casual seasonal labour to farmers, are white British men, although there are also a number of established Pakistanis and Russians. Many of the workers are legally supplied from Eastern Europe.

But there is also evidence that Brazilian gangs have been bringing in labourers from former Portuguese colonies, while Russian and East European Mafias are also attempting to muscle in on the illegal market. Chinese crime gangs, based around Kings Lynn -- which apparently has a Chinese population which has leapt from 300 a few months ago to 5,000 and growing -- are also exploiting the situation.

"Clearly if you have thousands of Chinese workers in this area, then the majority of them must be here illegally", a senior immigration official was reported as saying. "It's not something that has just happened. It has been planned. This takes a lot of money."

As a result of concerns, "Operation Gangmaster" has been set up, involving the Treasury, Inland Revenue, police, immigration, the Department of Work and Pensions and Health and Safety officials, but according to David Curry, Tory MP, it is "a surreal operation".

He says, "Each department seems to be doing their own thing. There are no targets. Yet people are evading tax and being exploited."

Yes, "evading tax" and "being exploited" are two politically correct, and safe, issues to talk about.

But here are three more issues to consider:
1. These people shouldn't be getting into the country illegally in the first place.
2. Why aren't the immigration authorities and police walking down the High Street in Kings Lynn, arresting such obvious illegals, detaining them and marching them to a chartered flight booked for Beijing? Oh that's right, China "refuses to take them back without documentation."
3. Available jobs should be filled legally and on decent wages, by indigenous British people -- and our government should do whatever is necessary to ensure that is possible.

There is, we're told, an "inability" to recruit Seasonal Field Hands from Britain. But why?

Are we really saying there are no young people in our towns and cities who wouldn't enjoy a few weeks picking strawberries in the Kent countryside, or vegetables in the fens of West Norfolk?

If we can import workers, legally, from abroad, on the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme -- and as the report below indicates, pay them very well indeed! -- then why is it not possible to encourage people from our own towns and cities to have access to such jobs, first.

One reason is that -- without a programme in place -- many farmers can't afford to pay a wage which is better than that available on Social Security.

Another is that there is no infrastructure in place to advertise the jobs and recruit the people in Britain.

Think about that! The infrastructure exists to recruit them legally from Eastern Europe, and pay them very well indeed, but not from East Anglia or Essex!

In reality, there should be no reason why we can't have programmes aimed at recruiting teenagers, or anyone, from the large towns and cities throughout Britain, for summer and seasonal work in the country.

We need to establish a government body whose job it is to organise a programme which will co-ordinate Farm Recruitment by publicising opportunities in schools, colleges, universities and job centres throughout Britain -- and which will pay a wage attractive enough to make it financially worthwhile for participants.

If such a programme could be properly co-ordinated and funded, then there is no doubt that a great deal -- if not all -- of the seasonal labour required in British agriculture could be provided by indigenous British citizens. The programme may even be over-subscribed!

Such a programme is a natural and intrinsic element of a National Food and Farming Strategy which has Food Sovereignty -- the ability of the country to feed itself independently -- as a core principle.

It is also a good way to heal the growing division between city and country (see Sovereignty, July 2002).

Indeed, farm work -- in certain areas which have been deemed safe -- could even be incorporated into the school curriculum for certain courses. Although no doubt there is presently some EU ruling against "under-age labour", which would need to be repealed or specifically modified.


  • Better checks at both entry and departure. As far as the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme is concerned: On entry, no criminal record checks are made, nor any check if any other member of the worker's family has claimed asylum previously. Moreover, there is a need to be able to ensure they have left when their work permits expire.

  • Illegal immigrants to be fast-tracked back.

  • The TUC to use its undoubted influence to argue for real changes to the British and world economic system that would ensure people could earn a living wage where they live, instead of having to migrate. As Sovereignty's Declaration of Moral Principles for a Sustainable Immigration Programme states (see November 2002): "It is moral to strive for a decent standard of living where you live. It is moral to help others achieve it, in order that they do not have to migrate for economic purposes." This would help transform the lives of working people world-wide. Instead, the TUC promotes politically correct immigration into Britain of foreign workers for jobs which could and should be filled by indigenous British labour.

  • Farmers to be in a position to offer the job to local, or British, labour first, and to be encouraged, and have access to financial programmes which will enable them so to do. Wages should be on a par with average local wages. The challenge is to ensure it is possible for British farmers to find and hire indigenous labour, and still make a margin.

  • Break the power of the gangmaster industry altogether. Is it right that private individuals should have the ability to recruit cheap labour from all over the world to work in this country? Moreover, half the gang workers in this country are thought to be illegal. Such a concerted assault on the gangmaster industry can only happen, however, if alternative sources of labour are going to be provided through the sort of government initiatives which we are advocating.

  • As a first step, gangmasters to be required to register their business before they can legally operate. Shaun Leavey, the Regional Director of the NFU in the South East says that, "Employment agencies are officially required to operate under the Employment Agency Act, but they do not have to register to set up in business, and policing of the Act is alleged to be virtually non-existent. This must not become a way of getting round the law if registration is introduced." (Letter in The Daily Telegraph, 22 July 2003)

  • And perhaps the most difficult step of all : British people to stand up and say they no longer want these illegal immigrants in their midst, that these people don't belong here, and China, or whoever else, had better take them back, "with or without documentation" and that we, the indigenous people of this country, will only vote for a political party which has the courage to make that plain!

Mobile homes site will feature pool and disco
by Simon de Bruxelles

The Times     February 20, 2004, p.2     (original here)

AN INSTANT village to house 900 foreign agricultural workers is springing up in Herefordshire. Dozens of mobile homes will house the students from Russia and Eastern Europe, who will be permitted to stay for up to six months.

The new village, on a five-acre site at Brierley, near Leominster, will include shops, a health centre, a swimming pool, disco and even a sauna.

The aim is to keep the workers, mainly university students in their early 20s, from overwhelming the ancient hamlet of black and white, half-timbered houses, which has a population of 30.

Articulated lorries have been winding their way along narrow country lanes for several weeks, delivering the mobile homes. They will welcome their first residents in May, when the migrant workers will begin picking strawberries which, for the first time, are being grown all year round at a 350-acre farm in Brierley.

Last year the Home Office increased the numbers of seasonal agricultural workers allowed into Britain from 10,000 to 25,000. The initiative was in part of an attempt to break the grip of gangmasters who exploit workers who have overstayed their welcome by paying them a pittance.

Each student will work a five-day week, earning up to £125 a day, and the strawberries they pick will be sold in supermarkets across Britain.

Most will stay for three months, although some will stay as long as six. The seasonal pickers, from universities in Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and China, can earn more money in a few months in England than they can in several years in their home countries.

The project began after S&A Produce, which already operates a strawberry farm at nearby Marden employing 800 foreign workers, bought a 350-acre former hop farm last summer. Graham Neal, the managing director, said the scheme should also provide 200 jobs for local people.

He said: "About 900 students in their early 20s are coming under a Home Office-backed scheme for seasonal agricultural workers. "Eight or nine hundred people is a lot to a village so the solution is to have one site where they are accommodated where we'll take care of their health and entertainment."

Laura Rimkute, 24, a Lithuanian student on her second strawberry-picking season at the Marden farm, said she was using the experience as a case study for a degree in agricultural business administration.

She said: "I'll be writing my diploma about the practices I've learnt here. I enjoy my time here. When someone's leaving they always ask, 'When can you come back?' " Unusually, the prospect of an "invasion" is welcomed by villagers. John Clark, who has lived in Brierley for 19 years, said: "We were apprehensive at first. We heard rumours but we had a meeting with them and basically we are fairly happy about the way things are going."

Alan Pryce, 40, a farmer, said: "It's modern farming and you have to do what makes money. Whether it pleases everyone I don't know."

His neighbour, Jocelyn Poole, who has lived in the village for 30 years, said: "They have kept us well informed about what they are doing."

Catherine Fothergill, a councillor in Leominster, was afraid that noise from the site could cause a problem. "We're concerned about importing a load of non-local people to work up there and we're worried about the massive recreational complex, which will have a disco and bring a lot of noise."

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