The CP has issued the following statement on Immigration.
The Communist Party condemns attempts by the government and others to exploit the issue of immigration in ways that are explicitly or implicitly racist. Racism of any kind divides working people and weakens resistance to the current onslaught on rights at work, collective bargaining and trade union organisation.
The Communist Party opposes the Immigration Bill currently before Parliament as intensifying the scapegoating of migrants and worsening the discriminatory and implicitly racist character of existing legislation. It makes
- working beyond visa expiry or as an asylum seeker a criminal offence and the wages earned the proceeds of crime
- places a legal obligation on landlords and banks to police all applications for housing and credit facilities
- ends government support for failed asylum seekers and their children
- imposes a requirement for public authorities only to employ fluent English speakers in any role with public contact in a way that could lead to discrimination
- threatens to weaken the Gang Masters Licensing Agency, the National Minimum Wage team and the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate through merger and concentration
At the same time, the existing legislation’s minimum income thresholds for the admission of family members, either spouses or children, is already blatantly discriminatory – excluding 55 per cent of women as against 27 per cent of men and 53 per cent of those aged under 29. These income thresholds impose grievous suffering on thousands of adults and children already legally settled in Britain. Equally discriminatory are the existing provisions of legislation relating to asylum seekers that ban paid employment for the initial period of registration and which impose prohibitive financial charges on the children of both asylum seekers and refugees entering higher education. No less objectionable and discriminatory are the procedures applied to those fleeing persecution on account of their sexual orientation.
The Communist Party points out that asylum seekers make up only 4 per cent of migrants into Britain, that returning British nationals, born in Britain, make up over 10 per cent, that over half of all migrants since 2010 have come to study at higher education institutions (and pay disproportionately to do so) and that over half of all migrants coming to work in Britain do so on time limited visas. The great bulk of current asylum seekers come from countries afflicted by war and economic devastation that are in significant degree the result of British government actions: Britain has an obligation to admit such refugees.
In terms of the EU referendum the Communist Party warns that the government’s focus on immigration can only serve to steer debate in a racist direction and away from the fundamental issues of democracy, EU-imposed austerity, privatisation and the dismantling of collective bargaining. In this context the government’s attempt to restrict access to benefits brings with it the serious danger that the restrictions could be extended to all workers by subsequent decisions of the EU Court of Justice.
In this context the Communist Party reaffirms the central importance of collective bargaining. It has a unique and vital role in ensuring the fair and equal treatment of all workers. It calls on the Labour Party to commit itself to the comprehensive extension of collective bargaining to all sectors of employment, and to all workers, organised and unorganised, alongside the repeal of all current anti-trade union legislation.
The Communist Party warns that the remaining collective bargaining structures in this country and across the EU are under direct threat from EU-imposed National Reform Programmes and EUCJ legal judgements which seek to maximise labour flexibility, to individualise wage determination and preclude trade union action to ensure equal wages and conditions for all workers including those brought from other member states.
The Communist Party draws attention to the comments of the European Trades Union Congress on the EU’s 2012 Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance:
‘Running as a red line through the programme of Economic Governance is the idea of turning wages into the main instrument of adjustment: currency devaluations (which are no longer possible inside the Euro Area) are to be replaced by a devaluation of pay in the form of deflationary wage cuts. To achieve this wage 'flexibility', labour market institutions which prevent wages from falling are perceived as being a 'rigidity' which should be eliminated.’
The Communist Party warns in particular that the EU-sponsored TTIP will open the way for the imposition of US-style industrial relations and the legal elimination of remaining areas of sector-wide collective bargaining. These developments will result in the systematic undermining of wages and conditions. They represent a direct driver for conflict between workers and for racism.
For these reasons the Communist Party believes that the comprehensive extension of collective bargaining would represent a key contribution to resolving the fundamental problems that beset the British economy: low wages, low productivity, lack of training and low investment. Joint National Councils, supplemented by Tripartite Councils in industries where there is currently limited organisation, should become responsible for regulating contractual relations and eliminating exploitative zero hours and agency worker contracts. They should also create industry-agreed frameworks for work-related migration that is non-racist and non-discriminatory and which recognises the role of migrant workers in bringing skills that are economically required and which, properly remunerated, will more than fully contribute to our economy. Proper remuneration achieved by collective bargaining would go a long way to eliminate state subsidy of low wages and remove from the agenda the benefits-for- migrants issue which is the focus of Cameron’s recent deal with the EU. The reintroduction of rent controls would, additionally, remove the need for the other element in that deal, namely housing benefit.
The Communist Party argues for comprehensive collective bargaining in the knowledge that, uncontrolled, the capitalist system will inherently seek to use competition between workers to drive down wages and conditions.
This is the danger currently presented by the forced movement of workers across the individual countries of the EU. Forced migration is being used to push down wages, destabilise workers’ employment practices and contracts, create more precarious working and undermine trade union organisation. The capitalist state, its political parties and media are attempting, all too often successfully, to turn any opposition into opposition to the migrant workers themselves, rather than the system that displaces them and forces them to move. In enforcing such movement the ruling class and its EU structures are acting as legitimated gang-masters and legalised people smugglers. The working class must turn its anger against these structures and demand a return to the system of collective bargaining created two generations ago in face of similar attempts to turn worker against worker.