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Racialised ‘price tag’: commodification of migrant labour from post-socialist EUrope and its effects on the UK labour market Barbara Samaluk, Queen Mary,

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Presentation on theme: "Racialised ‘price tag’: commodification of migrant labour from post-socialist EUrope and its effects on the UK labour market Barbara Samaluk, Queen Mary,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Racialised ‘price tag’: commodification of migrant labour from post-socialist EUrope and its effects on the UK labour market Barbara Samaluk, Queen Mary, University of London

2 EU enlargement in 2004

3 Postcolonial re-invention of ‘Eastern Europe’ "It is a moment of renewal and of healing, finally drawing to a close Europe's barbaric 20th century - a century stained by the dark era of communism and fascism." Pat Cox, president of the European parliament 2004 (cf. Vousden 2004: 1) According to Böröcz (2001) ‘Eastern Enlargement’ was characterised by institutional elements of colonial imperial mechanisms that combined four mechanisms of control, namely unequal exchange, coloniality, export of governmentality and geopolitics.

4 Neoliberal (self) colonialization Self-image of ‘young democracies’ that were surrounded with the narratives of ‘return to Europe’ ‘Enlargement offers a major political and economic opportunity to the EU’ (Europa website, accessed on 4.12.2009)

5 The production of European under-class 'Concerns in the Member States focus on fears about possible negative impact of enlargement - uncontrollable immigration, unfair competition, particularly for jobs, imported crime, environmental dumping and financial burdens.' (European Commission 2000: 6).

6 Objectification of colonial subjects on the UK level ‘The UK has always welcomed hard working immigrants seeking to better themselves and contribute to our prosperity. Tougher benefit rules will make sure our generosity is not exploited...'(HO 2004a:).

7 ‘Our Head Office is in London. The key factor for success of our business is our well- established network of local branches in both Lithuania and Latvia which enables to attract the most suitable workers for our clients’. Baltic staff: ‘We provide workers to all industry sectors and have bases in UK and Poland that enable us to deliver skilled candidates to match your unique and changing recruitment needs’ Europeople:

8 ‘The work ethics is stronger with people born in Eastern and Central Europe … who come from a background where governments dictated that everyone should work… This means that people coming from Eastern and Central Europe are generally more diligent and productive than their Western European counterparts, understanding work as being central to their existence rather than just something they do in order to earn a living…’. (Eurosource International: Work ethics

9 ‘Catching up with the West and as being burdened by a large number of workers who didn’t adapt to capitalism’. (European Recruitment Agency: Time dimension ‘Now there are lots of them happy and working in the UK making delicious bread and butter puddings, … teaching children Polish, singing and playing chess with their elderly charges, knitting cardigans…’ (Many hands website:

10 »Our skilled workforce are multi talented and extremely hard working, they are not only an asset to every company they are employed by, they are also ambassadors for their Countries, a responsibility they are fully aware of« (European Recruitment Agency: » Polish Builders are a breed apart«. (Eurosource international: and HR Builders: builders.html ) builders.html »the UK’s army of Polish workers that have built the reputation of reliability and fair prices« (Freelabour: ) Nationality as a capital

11 Commodified for aesthetic labour (2B Interface:

12 ‘My friend, she worked in Bradford and her manager said to her, I want you to run recruitment for me. I'm running a carehome for old people. Now, can you go to Poland, because she's Polish and arrange for 25-30 years old women to come to work at my carehome. So he knew, she can go to Poland and literary put and advert saying, 25-30 years old women needed for care home. And he's Asian, he wanted his clients to pay for the service that their grandmothers and grandfathers are cleaned by beautiful Polish women. Most of men in the carehome were Asian and they had these image of a beautiful blond, slim, young. So he decided that entire carehome will be made up by beautiful Polish women’. (Ania, 30, recruitment manager, Polish) Effects of racialised transnational economy

13 ‘It worked mostly like this, that this employment agency in Warsaw made very nice, colourful advertisement in the biggest Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza. And I noticed the big, colourful advertisement saying, giving UK salary. It was really good for Polish standards. Somebody who doesn't know the costs and how much one will need to pay for the room, it sounded very attractive. I expected that in the West many things are organised better. So I thought it will be very professional. It was a great, great disappointment, when I saw the reality in comparison to what was in advertisement. There was a bit of marketing exaggeration. In the level of professionalism of the company as well as the things that the agency can provide for us, it was disappointing’. (Marek, 33, manager, Polish) Promises and imagination

14 ‘My friend, he phoned me up. I need your help! I don't speak English and I signed up with an agency that specifically recruits eastern Europeans and then they send us for jobs. What they did, is that they lowered our salaries. My colleagues, my British equivalents make more money than me. Can you speak to the agency, what's going on? And secondly, that was really bad. He said that the agency picks Polish or eastern Europeans because they know they will do any job and they were sending them for example to dig in the ground with asbestos, without any protection. He said that this agency was sending the whole van of eastern Europeans to a construction site, where there were dangerous substances. And they wouldn't send a British workers there’. (Ania, 30, recruitment manager, Polish) Discrimination and exploitation

15 ‘For example I had problem and I spoke with my colleagues. I was in Citizen's Advice Bureau and I tried to make big trouble in the court about people working there. Everybody said, yes, yes, now we will get our money. But, when we went to court, nobody came...Yes, because people are thinking like this, especially people who don't speak English. They have a job, they can earn money, they have their own wage. Not so good, but they have. If they go to the court, they loose this employer. They don't know how long they will have to wait for the next employer. And that's it...everything is rolling by itself’. (Pawel, 30, construction workers, Polish) Compliance

16 ‘Poles themselves told me that they sort of try to get in each other’s way or you know sabotage someone else's chances. I haven't made any friends with them in five years really. And to be honest, I don't have a really good opinion about them. It's just that over time you come to realise they are our biggest competitors, like work, you know, search for work. And when English people refer to eastern Europeans they usually think them but because of them we all just sort of fall in one group and so many of them came here that I think they draw down the salaries, they might have overcrowded the labour market and people nowadays get paid less than what English people got paid, before the EU for doing the same job ’. (Marko, 30, waiter/audiovisual practitioner, Slovenian) Competition vs. solidarity

17 Colonising practices on transnational fields create a specific class of worker that carries a racialised ‘price-tag’; (Self) colonizing practices leave racialised transnational economy unchallenged and form the basis for false imagination; High vulnerability of new arrivals in the UK; Employment agencies and employers use this to provide desired services, fill low-skilled jobs and lower the costs of production; Racialised transnational economy shows its detrimental effects for overall social cohesion and in disabled solidarity amongst workers; Workers’ representation policies and practices in the UK should focus on processes beyond national borders. Conclusions

18 Thank you! Contact:

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