|Volume 50 Number 7, February 29, 2020||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Home Secretary Priti Patel announced on February 18 the government's intention to restrict those who wish to come to Britain to work to those she called "skilled". She said that the government wanted to "encourage people with the right talent" and that businesses could recruit from among eight million "economically inactive" potential workers.
It is said that low-skilled workers would not get visas under the post-Brexit immigration plans unveiled by the government. Under the points-based system, workers would have to reach 70 points to be able to work in Britain. Having the offer of a skilled job with an "approved sponsor" would supply 50 of these points. More points would be awarded for qualifications, the salary on offer, and working in a sector with shortages. Speaking English would also be required. Furthermore, the salary threshold for skilled workers wanting to come to Britain would be £25,600.
The government's argument that it is interested in developing skills among the British people is fraudulent and racist. The ruling elite has had no qualms about recruiting workers from abroad to drive down wages and conditions when it has suited them. Now that they are decimating the manufacturing base and wrecking the economy, they are imposing arbitrary conditions. The announced plans are an attack on the rights of all workers, who have bitter experience of the monopolies and multinationals in this regard and will regard this as an attack on the most vulnerable in society.
The ruling elite are not interested in talk of a "hostile environment" being fostered; nor do they seem to care much about being called racist. They even want to "repatriate" people, such as sections of the African and Caribbean communities. They apparently do not currently want to attract workers from anywhere at all.
To say that the problem is low-skilled workers from abroad is diversionary and is aimed at depriving people of an outlook by wrecking public opinion. In particular, it is aimed at blocking workers from themselves discussing the problems they are facing and organising against the anti-social offensive.
The government directs the economy to serve narrow private interests, and their policy on immigration is all about furthering these private interests. First and foremost, the ruling elite cannot view migration as a matter of humanity. It is instead viewed as a matter of human capital. The rich only recognise their own assumed right to claim on the social product, and prefer populations not to migrate from where labour is cheaper or where the claims of the majority on the economy in the form of social programmes is lower, from their perspective that views such claims as costs. Rather, they prefer to shift production to such "low-cost" regions where possible.
At the same time, they seek to replace labour altogether through increasing automation. Even though workers generate value, capitalist economics is narrow in outlook. Taken individually, skilled labour produces a great amount of value, but unskilled labour collectively is highly productive when organised, such as when part of a manufacturing process with a division of labour. Denigration of unskilled work is based on a lie that equates unskilled with unproductive.
This is just as much the case in sectors other than manufacturing, such as health and social care. Here there is an additional layer of untruth to contend with, which is that these sectors themselves are depicted as "costs". In reality, they create massive value that is used by the rest of the economy, new value that goes largely unrealised. Organised collective unskilled labour in the NHS and social care services contributes a huge part of this value. Much of this labour is done by national minorities.
The immigration plans spell trouble for adult social care. Many people employed by the sector are low-paid care workers. They are responsible for providing daily help to older and disabled adults in care homes and the community. Foreign workers make up a sixth of the 840,000-strong care worker workforce in England. It is hard to see how in the future these staff could qualify under the new plans. This work is not even classed as skilled, and even if it were, many workers do not come with A-levels. The pay is often below £20,000. Nor is the role classed as a shortage occupation, even though there are already significant shortages - one in 11 posts are unfilled.
By posing the question as "Who is skilled?", the government sets up a divisive debate by arguing definitions. Benchmarks, categories, job evaluation schemes, and so on, are long-standing methods used to demarcate workers and undermine collective solidarity in historic wage struggles. Such a debate places skilled workers at odds with unskilled workers. These highly contentious arguments do not serve the interests of the working class.
There is a necessity for workers to speak in their own name, to discuss the problems they face and organise to take up these problems for solution. They should reject with contempt the racist outlook of the ruling elite and its representatives in power.
Organising to solve these problems means fighting to change the direction of the economy. Is the government's immigration policy going to solve the problems of the economy? The answer is no. The whole notion of a points system is irrational. How can talent be measured? Who decided what skills are necessary? The working class and people reject this policy, which is shot through with racism and puts narrow private interests in pride of place.
The only conclusion is to defend the rights of all!