Aquí un relatorio de la reunión sobre precariedad y migración al FSE
Muchas gracias a todos/as participantes y espero futuras colaboraciones
entre nosotros de cualquier forma.



At least 50 people from at least five EU states attended this session,
which lasted well over 2 and a half hours. There was not time to
formulate precise positions or demands to take forward, but the overall
conclusions of the meeting may be summarised as follows:-

• trade unions need a `wake up call’ to give more attention to the needs
and demands of precarious workers and migrant workers
• trade unions need to devise new ways to organise and support these
workers, especially migrants; the meeting heard about some practical
• there are powerful forces at work which are tending to increase
precarity – short-term, low paid jobs with poor conditions and few rights.
These include new employer practices to save labour costs, often by
outsourcing or sub-contracting; privatisation; increased pressure from the
state on the unemployed to take bad jobs, through workfare and through
cuts in unemployment benefit; the super-exploitation by employers of
vulnerable migrants from lower-wage countries, often from within the EU
as well as outside it; the increasing vulnerability of non-EU migrants to
deportation or detention, which makes them frightened to demand their
rights as workers
• historic workers’ organisations do not seem to be dealing effectively
with these forces; there is a key role for social movements and for more
radical and politicised forms of trade unionism, to press forward demands
for migrant rights, for a guaranteed income without conditions, for
abandonment of a European constitution which supports privatisation and
which embraces the Bolktestein Directive and the flexibilisation of
labour- all these three things must be firmly opposed
• however there is a need for international solidarity and unity of the
whole working class, and a need to avoid getting diverted into `single
–issue’ politics

Speakers (not everyone wanted to circulate their full names, fearing
employer blacklists and so forth):
• David Chapple, from a trade union based project to support asylum
seekers and migrant workers in a small town in the West of England;
• Alan, from Bristol Campaign against Casualisation, an action group of
unwaged people and casualised workers
• Carlos, working with North African farm workers ; from the CGT, an
anarcho-syndicalist union, in Murcia, Andalusia, Spain
• François from `Action Chômage!’ – a French organisation of the
unemployed and precarious
• Evyline Perrin from `Stop Precarité’, a French grouping of trade
unionists and social movements
• Josep Bel from Red Solidaria, Catalunya, Spain
• Enrica, Frassanito Network, a movement supporting migrant workers in
southern Italy

Here are some notes on what each speaker said, with the main points made
in the discussion. Some groups presented additional documents (added at
the end). Also at the end are contact details and suggestions for further

David Chapple

Chard is a small working class Somerset town which had until 2003 an
almost all-British, all-white population. Oscar-Meyer, a factory with over
1,200 employees, had had great difficulty recruiting staff, and they began
to bring in migrant workers, Portuguese citizens, many actually of African
descent. Oscar- Meyer makes `ready meals’ for a national supermarket
chain. Two hundred Portuguese arrived at Oscar-Meyer without warning to
anyone-it is a fiercely non-union plant. They are paid about £5 (7.50
euros) per hours, £2 (3 euros) less per hour than the English workers, and
for this they must work nights, Saturdays and Sundays, Bank Holidays. Not
only did local people feel their own wages and conditions were at risk
from this situation, but the migrant workers and their employer began to
compete with local workers for housing. A Portuguese employment agency
bought a number of houses and charged Portuguese workers extortionate
rents to live in them.

A racist reaction emerged amongst the local population, and the British
National Party (a fascist party) stood candidates in the local elections.
In October 2003, there were fights in the streets between local people and
Portuguese. Windows were broken in Portuguese workers’ homes and in a
Portuguese café established by the agency. During the European Parliament
elections in June 2004, fascists leafleted the areas accusing Portuguese
African workers of `stealing homes and jobs from white people’.

The factory had only 6 trade union members amongst a total workforce of
1200. Its owner said that if the factory became organised by any trade
union, he would close it down. For some time the union did not attempt to
recruit the Portuguese agency workers. Its general secretary was persuaded
to intervene, and after that Portuguese and English workers were accepted
and organised on an equal basis. The factory now has 150 trade union
members, half of them Portuguese. Union sympathisers set up a crêche for
the Portuguese workers’ children.. Hopefully there will be a new trade
union council which unites Portuguese and English workers. These actions
have helped to reduce economic racism.

Alan – Bristol Campaign against Casualisation
Agency employment has grown as a result of a number of recent trends in
capitalism which are widespread and represent a distinct change in the
employment situation; for example, the shift of work to the `third world’,
the spread of outsourcing and sub-contracting, the increased pressure
placed on unemployed people through the unemployed benefit system, which
means employers can easily use them as a short-term union-busting labour
force, the shift to `just in time production’ and increased
uncertainty/lower profits for small businesses. The system of education
and training is now designed to train people for low paid, partly skilled
jobs, and without a permanent contract, people cannot get the experience
they need to become fully qualified.
Capitalism continually sets workers in competition with each other, and
this was not helped by union policies of the 1970s which argued for large
pay differentials, leaving the unemployed and unskilled out in the cold.
There are divisions within the construction labour force; foremen set
electricians against agency workers, agency workers blame apprentices for
any problem, and everyone blames asylum seekers and the unemployed.
The construction industry pioneered outsourcing and using workers with
(pseudo) `self-employed’ status to get around its responsibilities to
British labour law has many flaws. The left has prioritised single issue
politics favoured by the middle class, so has largely ignored the problems
of the working class which were aggravated by legal changes made under
Thatcher. Protection against unfair dismissal is still only available to
people who have been in their job at least one year. Blair has blocked
proper implemntation of EU `social chapter ‘ measures. For example, he has
blocked the introduction of the agency work directive, and has weakened
the Working Time Directive by continuing to allow `voluntary’ opting out
of the 48 hour limit. It is apparently acceptable for bosses to use scabs
(strike breakers), to impose the same rate of pay even for weekend work
and overtime, to impose zero hours contracts, or minimum performance
targets, or force workers to buy their own safety equipment, or be under
constant surveillance by mobile phone. All this happens to agency workers.
It is allowed to happen because the core workforce themselves are

In his last job as an electrician, Alan had to get up in Bristol at 4.30
a.m., drive all the way to London, and not return till 8.30p.m., weekends
included. This was an example of the `voluntary’ opt out from the Working
Time Directive, which with many other quite unacceptable conditions was
made a part of the employment contract. He was sacked after two weeks by a
call on a mobile phone, with no warning and an instant end to his wages.
Nearly all of the other electricians working with him were young and
semi-qualified. They often crashed their vans on the motorway because of
lack of sleep. Apprentices were on the National Minimum Wage only.

Agency workers suffer other problems too; sometimes not getting paid, or
not getting paid for all the work they have done, never getting the
collectively agreed trade union rate, having to constantly start and stop
claims for unemployment benefit, and only being entitled to means-tested
benefit because they are unemployed so often.

We should demand:-
- an end to the compulsion to take bad jobs, associated with the present
unemployment benefit rules
- an end to means tests, whether in work or out of work (tax credits
involve means tests too, and encourage low pay)
- a minimum wage of at least £8 (12 euros) per hour
- Better employment laws, including; a crime of `corporate manslaughter’,
punishable by prison, for bosses who are responsible for deaths at work; a
right to a one hour lunch break and 30 minute tea breaks, agency workers
should have a right to 40 hours work as their minimum length of
assignment; as in Germany, employers should be forced to pay a certain
minimum amount of money for workers’ training
- Britain should be part of Europe and hope that trade unions in the rest
of the EU will prevent Britain from undercutting wages and conditions of
other EU workers
- Solidarity actions for all working class people; Bristol Campaign
against Casualisation is against `partnership’ unionism

Carlos, CGT, Andalucia
The CGT has been working for six years with farm workers, some of whom
come to Andalucia just for harvest periods, others work all the year round
in greenhouses. (In a previous visit to London in September 2004, Carlos
described their extremely low wagesStrawberries are one of the main crops
involved. Around 20,000 East European workers pick strawberries; they are
contracted for 3 months, but in that time they only get about 40 days’
work. Rights of both Spanish and migrant workers are constantly being
violated, and the migrants need information in their own languages. The
CGT gives legal advice and goes around to speak to workers in the fields
whilst they are working. In 2002, they organised a `march for dignity’,
demonstrating through the agricultural area so that field workers were
encouraged to stop work and join them. There was also a protest occupation
of the university in Sevilla.

Because the larger trade unions give little attention to migrant and
precarious workers’ conditions, a coalition has been formed of the CGT
and three other small unions involved with temporary workers. They want a
joint collective agreement for this sector. However, the migrants workers’
struggle is heavily criminalised by the state.

François, Action Chômage!
As detailed in the text they circulated for the meeting, AC! draw
attention to the Boltkestein Directive on the privatisation of services,
which is embodied in the new European constitution. This directive permits
an agency with its main office in Country X to send workers to Country Y
on contracts of up to 2 months, without having to observe any of the
labour protection regulations or collective agreements of Country Y. This
allows migrants to be used freely to undercut wages and conditions
established by trade unions in Country Y, reducing them to those of
Country X.
Inter-governmental agreements through the International Organisation for
Migration (IOM, or OMI in French) also support this practice. No EU
country will be able to prevent it, under the EU constitution, although
each contract of this kind (in France at least) has to have the specific
approval of the Ministry of Labour. Some French examples are when 300
Turkish woodcutters were brought in for emergency tree-felling work after
a nation-wide storm – they worked in France under Turkish conditions for
Turkish wages; and an agency (ALSTOM ?) which contracts labour for
shipbuilding, bringing in Polish workers to work in France for 200 euros
per month.
The French comrades emphasise the need for a guaranteed income equal to
the national minimum wage, without any conditions about what work someone
is looking for or is willing to accept. This stands in contrast to the
widespread tendency to `workfare’ and tighter conditions to unemployed
benefits. Rights to guaranteed income must be given to migrants as well as

Discussion of the first four speakers

Barbed Wire Britain:
The increasing threat of deportation of migrant workers is very convenient
for employers. More and more illegal migrants are placed in detention.
Migrants fear to come to meetings and are unable to travel.

Anne, Bristol Campaign against Casualisation:
Older activists have a strong memory of a welfare state of the 1970s and
earlier, which then was particularly well developed in Britain. It is now
being lost and undermined by privatisation, public spending cuts and
erosion of workers’ rights. There is a need to keep that vision and memory
alive and to make it clear to young people what has already been lost and
what is still at stake. Secure, unionised jobs with proper pensions and
public health services, education and housing are vital.

Alex, Chainworkers, Italy;
In Italy organisations of the precarious and of migrant workers have
merged, recognising the communality of their struggle. The struggle
against racism and exclusion of foreign workers is very important. This
common struggle is a European social question. Would like to see
coordinated actions on May Day in support of migrant/precarious demands.
Barbed Wire Britain:
Many people have campaigned for years for a special day of action for
migrant rights. This is needed in addition to May Day actions.

Several speakers:
Blacklisting and exposure of the worst employment agencies is needed, but
it should not be done in such a way as to suggest that there are `good’
agencies which are `ok’. Action is needed against all agencies.
Andy, Bristol Campaign against Casualisation:
We have demonstrated six times sat Manpower’s offices. The last time, the
manager claimed `we’re a good employer’ and pointed to their `partnership’
with the T and G Union. This kind of `partnership’ is dangerous; Manpower
and Adecco make out they are union-friendly but have both spoken against
EU level regulation of agency work.
Further speakers then addressed the meeting:-

Josep Bel, Red Solidaria/Sindicato de Comisiones de base, Barcelona

When Telefonica, the Spanish telecoms company, was privatised, there was a
huge wave of redundancies and casualisation of existing workers. Co.bas
was formed to confront these problems, holding a monthly assembly to
handle actions in support of affected workers. This `assembly’ method has
been very productive in uniting workers across different political groups.
>From this work emerged the Red Solidaria, a solidarity network bringing
together different groups of workers to fight closures and casualisation
across several enterprises, for example Philips, Samsung, Sintel, etc.
(Its title in Catalan is Xarxa Solidaria contra els Tancaments I la
Precarietat). This has proved to be an effective vehicle for wider
political campaigns, for example for migrants’ rights and against the EU
constitution. The Xarxa has campaigned against the `Europe of Capital’
with its neo-liberal plans for flexibilisation of labour and dismantling
of the welfare state.
What is needed now is to take forward this struggle in ways which are more
sustainable and more effective than occasional demonstrations and days of
action. Action is needed on a very wide range of issues, for which
historic workers’ organisations are not effective, although it is
necessary to convey to young people the traditions and history of working
class struggle, of which often they have little understanding because of
their own experience as unorganised precarious workers. The fight is
against the globalisation of everyday life; not only is flexibilisation of
labour leading to insecure work and falling wages, but neo-liberal
policies are forcing up housing costs and university fees. Temporary
workers are afraid to organise, most of all migrants, many of whom are
`sin papeles’ (sans-papiers/illegals). There is increasing pressure on the
unemployed through attempts to cut people’s benefits unless they take the
worst jobs. The Xarxa seeks to bring together the different movements and
groups involved in struggling against precarity, for continuous and
sustainable coordinated action.
(The Xarxa’s leaflet, distributed to the meeting, emphasises that this
will be particularly important in the near future because of the Spanish
government’s current plans for more privatisation – including of railways
- and because the government wants to change labour laws to make workers’
rights in permanent contracts more like the present situation in temporary
ones. Pension cuts are also planned).

Evelyne Perrin, Stop Precarité
An independent organisation of precarious workers is needed because trade
unions are not giving sufficient priority to the needs of precarious
workers. Stop Precarité emerged from successful strike actions by
precarious youth in and near Paris in 2000-2001. These began amongst
`fast food’ workers who are usually young, sometimes students, sometimes
not, often from migrant groups/ethnic minorities and generally employed
part-time at low wages, so they rarely stay long. The strikes illustrated
the value of a rank and file group, the CGT Fast Food Collective
(Collectif CGT de la restauration rapide) which covers several fast food
`chain’ enterprises. When workers at McDonalds in Saint-Denis went on
strike against sackings which unjustly accused five workers of stealing
restaurant takings, a support committee was formed which combined the
Collectif CGT with people from the Sud trade union (Solidaire, Unifié,
Démocratique) AC!, Attac, and several political parties (Trotskyist,
Communist and Green). This committee attracted 30-40 people and held
strike pickets for three months, as well as occupying other McDonalds
branches to leaflet staff and customers, put up posters and collect money
for the strikers. In some cases this promoted further strikes by staff in
those branches about their own specific demands. The sacked workers were
reinstated in February 2002, after a street demonstration of 2000 people.
Workers at the Opéra branch of Pizza Hut went on strike for 32 days from
January 2001, again with regular pickets, demanding better pay, extra for
night work, and improvements to health and safety provisions and winning
some of these demands. (More details can be found in Evyline Perrin’s
book, see below).

Stop Précarité was formed from the support committee, uniting trade
unionists and a range of social movements, student and political groups.
It has organised classes on labour law and workers’ rights for precarious
workers – hundreds in Paris attend every month.

Enrica, Frassanito Network, Italy
Migrants in Italy have been massively illegalised and casualised following
the recent Bosso Fini law which in effect made having a residence permit
dependent on having a job. This obviously makes them very desperate to
obtain work. Most migrants newly arriving in Italy are in fact illegal.
Migrants are prey to the worst forms of employment intermediary , the
`caprolati’ [or gangmasters, as they would probably be called in English]
who are often linked to criminal activity. In the hinterland of Naples,
the caprolati hire people by the day. This makes them extremely hard to
organise, and makes it hard to identify an employer who behaves badly,
because it is often unclear to these migrant workers who their employer
actually is.
The Movimento Immigrati is a network involving Italian as well as migrant
workers. It works closely with the unemployed movement which is very
strong in the Naples area.

Contacts and web sites; - this website talks focuses on the issue 'migrant and
labour' only. It connects the struggles around the globe.
Xarxa Solidaria: (in Spanish and
Catalan)(that’s Xarxa-contratancaments at
Campaign against IOM: that’s www dot noborder dot org/iom
Bristol Campaign against Casualisation;, that’s
bristolacc at , tel 44 (0) 779 2018881
`Reclaim our Rights’; United Campaign to Repeal the Anti-Trade Union Laws
(in Britain) ; that’s unitedcampaign
David Chapple;
Stop Precarité; (in French)
Action Chômage; (in French)
No Sweat ( organises and campaigns against sweatshop labour in the UK
and worldwide. ;
BIEN (Basic Income European Network); (lots of
research material about the demand for a universal, unconditional basic
income, in English and several other languages)
Link to declaration of the Assembly of the Precariat, drafted in the
`alternative ESF space’ at Middlesex University, October 2004;
Frassanito Network ; that’s frassainfo at
The organisers of the `precarity and migration’ discussion which is reported
Further reading In English:
Andy Mathers, ‘Euromarch - the struggle for a social Europe’, Capital and
Class 68 (Summer 1999) pp. 15-20.
Anne Gray; Unsocial Europe; Social Protection or Flexploitation ? Pluto,London, 2004
Pauline Bradley, Chris Knight and others; Another World is Possible; How
the Liverpool Dockers launched a Global Movement; a pamphlet published by
activists who supported the Liverpool Dockers in their dispute of 1995-98;
available from Pauline Bradley, 15 Collingwood Road, Tottenham, London N15
4LD, price £5 or 10 euros
In French:
Evyline Perrin; Chômeurs et précaires, au coeur de la question sociale; La
Dispute, Paris, 2004
AC!, APEIS, MNCP, Evyline Perrin (and others); Données et arguments;
précarité; Éditions Syllepse, Paris, 2001
In Spanish:
José Iglesias Fernandez, Josep Manuel Busqueta and Manolo Sáez Bayona, Que
es la Renta Basica ? Edita Creaccion, Sevilla, (a very short book) and
Todo sobre la Renta Basica (their larger book), Virus, Barcelona, 2001