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"Precarity/Migrants" Session at Alternative ESF, London, Oct. 16, 2004

Anne Gray writes:

"Precarious Work/Casualisation

Common Struggles of Migrants and Nationals

A Workshop at the London (Alternative/Fringe) ESF

Saturday 16th October 2004

11.00 to 13.00 at the London School of Economics

(Go to room D702, Clement House, street called Aldwych; tube station Holborn)

Admission free both to ESF registrants and others

Migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and sans-papiers have a central thing in common with the established citizens of Europe; they are exploited workers. The session will focus on this central aspect of our lives. It will analyse how the bosses’ strategies to obtain 'disposable’ cheap labour are supported by states’ attempts to 'deregulate’ labour markets, to pressurise unemployed people into accepting unacceptable jobs, and to fortify immigration control. By bringing together the views and experiences of migrants and others, we can develop ways forward which will unite people of different origins to be more effective in their common struggle against exploitation.'Precarious work’ is what most Europeans call underpaid, insecure jobs. In Britain we sometimes talk about 'casualisation’. Casualisation or precarity, in the form of short-term contracts and agency work, has spread during the 1990s from farms and building sites to factories and many other sectors. Insecurity of work makes it easier for employers to put migrants and others in competition with each other. The increasing use of fixed term and temporary contracts, and of private employment agencies, is one way in which bosses seek cheaper labour, and attempt to undermine trade union strength. Youth, ethnic minorities, sans-papiers and foreigners on short-term work permits are amongst the worst exploited in the market for casual labour.

Questions we might consider:

1. What are the best strategies for organising agency workers and other casual (precarious) workers; migrants and others? How can we network internationally about this after the ESF? An 'encuentro’or gathering? An e-list?

2. In what ways can social movements or organisations beyond the workplace support casual (precarious) workers?
For example, by pickets, demonstrations, consumer boycotts, other forms of pressure from consumers, investors/shareholders, communities ? How could we put pressure on supermarkets to improve conditions of workers in enterprises which supply them with food?

3. What should be done to regulate/control employment agencies? What is the role of the state, of the EU, of trade unions and social movements in controlling and influencing how agencies treat their workers?

4. Would migrants be stronger, as workers struggling for better conditions, if they had more rights? (rights to citizenship, rights to unemployment benefits, etc)

5. What is the role of unemployed benefit systems and the increasing pressure, in several European countries, to take any job whatever the wage? Do recent changes in unemployed benefit systems (workfare, etc) tend to force people into precarious jobs? Would it help to have a guaranteed income from the state, whether or not you work or seek work? Or would employers just see that as an excuse to pay even lower wages?

Speakers’ names and background texts will be available at the meeting. The discussion is the most important thing.


— Action Chomage, France, on struggle of McDonalds workers and other precarious workers in Paris

— Bristol Campaign against Casualisation on local work around exposing the role of employment agencies

— Red Solidaria, Barcelona, on struggles of precarious workers in Spain

— A trade union based project to support asylum seekers and migrant workers in Somerset, England

— (Invited) Kein Mensch ist Illegal

Extra speakers welcome! contact Anne or 44 (0) 208 888 1551 or 07791 904375

Translation? we will try to translate you from French, Castellano, German, Italian. No headsets — sorry.

More details/updates/translations; see www.esf2004.net; from Oct 10 (look at 'life despite capitalism’)