Thursday, March 16, 2006

Organise the poor immigrant

As the recent Irish Ferries dispute demonstrated, attempts to deploy low-wage labour from eastern Europe in high-wage western Europe are set to become increasingly commonplace in the next few years.

If employers are allowed to get away it, everybody's pay packet will suffer. Bank of England governor Mervyn King has got a convoluted way of putting things. But that, in plain English, is what he is saying here:

'If the increased demand for labour generates its own supply in the form of migrant labour then the link between demand and prices is broken, or at least altered. Indeed, in an economy that can call on unlimited supplies of migrant labour, the concept of the output gap is meaningless.

'The UK is not in that extreme position, but the inflow of migrant labour, especially in the past year or so from Eastern Europe, has probably led to a diminution of inflationary pressure in the labour market relative to previous experience.'

Seen in that light, the current unofficial strike of British and east European construction workers at a desulphurisation plant at Cottam - that's between Nottingham and Lincoln - could become a landmark dispute. Workers' Liberty has details in the latest edition of Solidarity.

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