Unions demand a greater role as post Brexit immigration clamp down see poor gains for low wage workers
ACCORDING to a new report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), post Brexit limits on immigration would raise the pay of low waged workers by less than 1 per cent.
The report, ‘The Economic Impact of Brexit-induced Reductions in Migration’, found that a fall in total immigration of 91,000, a "middle-range" Brexit scenario, would see GDP per capita 3.4 per cent lower by 2030.
In this scenario workers in the industries which employ most migrant labour including construction, retail, hospitality, food processing, and agriculture could see their wages increase by only 0.82 per cent, which has led the Unite union to call for a focus on higher pay and stronger unions.
“Workers need to stick together, not allow themselves to be divided. And they need to get organised to fight for better pay and dignity and respect in the workplace.” Pat Rafferty
Speaking to CommonSpace, the Scottish secretary of Unite, Pat Rafferty said: “This research shows the fundamental problem affecting workers today – they need a pay rise. For that to happen workers need to stick together, not allow themselves to be divided. And they need to get organised to fight for better pay and dignity and respect in the workplace.
“Collective bargaining through Unite and other trade unions is the best way to achieve that, and any government that is serious about helping low-paid workers should scrap union bashing laws that give the upper hand to employers."
The news came before the committee for culture, tourism, Europe and external relations met this morning to assess the contributions EU and non-EU migrants make to the Scottish economy and society. The data showing the lack of growth of post-Brexit wages for low paid workers runs contrary to the claims of UK Chancellor Philip Hammond who claimed a “victory for working people” when he raised the “living wage” to £7.50 in the recent Autumn Statement.
“As long as low pay sectors like construction and hospitality remain largely non-unionised, it doesn't matter whether you are British born, Polish, Lithuanian.” Ben Wray
A 2016 SPiCE report showed that EU nationals are, on average, earning less than Scottish employees (£8.60 per hour for EU nationals compared to £11.10 per hour for all employees in Scotland).
Agreeing with the need for focus on bargaining power for all low wage workers Ben Wray, head of policy at the thinktank CommonWeal, said: “It is of course possible that in sectors like construction increased market competition from immigration applies downward pressure on wages, but to look at it solely in this context is a big mistake.
“As long as low pay sectors like construction and hospitality remain largely non-unionised, it doesn't matter whether you are British born, Polish, Lithuanian, low pay and high exploitation will remain a fact of life. The gap between the pay of unionised workers and non-unionised workers is far higher than that between immigrants and British born workers.”
“A half per cent increase in wages by 2030 is hardly seismic, especially when compared with the amount low pay workers are going to lose through Universal Credit.” Ben Wray
Wray added: “The UK desperately needs a public infrastructure boom – there should be more construction jobs available than construction workers know what to do with. If Chancellor Philip Hammond is going to deliver on his rhetoric of major infrastructure investment it is likely immigrant labour will be essential for this. The multiplier effect from such large-scale investment helps everyone.
“Finally, a half per cent increase in wages by 2030 is hardly seismic, especially when compared with the amount low pay workers are going to lose through Universal Credit, and the amount they have lost through out of control rent rises and austerity. We shouldn’t forget where by far the most significant downward pressure on wages comes from: employers and landlords, and their comrades-in-arms, the Tory Government.”
Average wages have fallen by an unprecedented 10.4 per cent in the UK since 2007. Bank of England chief Mark Carney has warned of a coming decade of wage stagnation.
Picture courtesy of IM
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