The problems facing migrant workers in Britain can be seen by looking at the example of the baggage handling company, Swissport, who refuse to directly employ their staff, and instead use an agency that takes a large cut of the migrant workers earnings for accommodation and fees.
The mainly male Polish workers are employed on the check-ins and baggage handling ramps at Stansted by Swissport. The company claims that they are “self employed”, and so the staff do not receive any sick pay, holiday pay or other normal items that the directly employed workers receive. This is reminiscent of the scam during the 1970s of unscrupulous building employers enforcing self employed status through the “lump” system, that was opposed by a long campaign from the construction unions.
The current situation is even worse as Swissport are exploiting a two tier work force, with directly employed British workers getting better conditions than the Poles. The workers union, the GMB is taking legal advice because it believes that as the migrants can work only for the single employer, and lose their accommodation if they leave the job with Swissport, then they cannot legally be classified as self-employed.
The migrant workers are supplied to Swissport by Labour Source Limited an agency operating out from Walthamstow, London which insists that they work as self-employed labour through another agency, Nova Corporate Services Ltd Leeds , which sets-up their self-employed status as an individual limited company and deals with tax and National insurance etc.. Confused – well that – presumably - is the idea. These Polish workers do not speak English as their first language, don’t know British employment law, and yet are employed through a legal maze of several different companies!
Yet another agency, Labour Source Ltd from Ruislip, Middlesex puts the migrant workers into accommodation and charges them £183 per week rent, an agency fee of £250 and takes a deposit of £1,650 which they lose if they leave the job. After paying their rent, utilities bills and other associated costs they are left with approximately £250 per month for food and personal living expenses.
A further problem facing these migrant workers is that the accommodation is in Takley, Essex and without transport the workers are forced to walk the three miles to the airport along unlit country lanes in the early hours of the morning.
As GMB Organiser, Gary Pearce, says: "GMB is asking Swissport to openly condemn the treatment of these migrant workers both at work and in their accommodation and to take them into directly employment with the company. In that way they will be entitled to the whole packed of pay and conditions that GMB has negotiated for the directly employed workforce. Self-employed people have the freedom to work where and when they want and so these works are losing out on both fronts. They have no freedom to keep the money they earn or the freedom to work and live where they want to. If Swissport did this these workers could then afford to arrange their own accommodation and cut out the money deducted by the agencies that are taking a cut of everything they earn."