A Tale of Immigration
Posted on July 7, 2016
Back in the early noughties, I was doing a lot of recruiting and payroll work for an Irish company in North London. Because of the false building boom of that period, they were incredibly busy and expanding rapidly.
One of the issues they had at the time was that the Celtic Tiger was roaring and a lot of Irish labour was moving back to Southern Ireland to make extraordinary amounts of money. Until the Celtic boom, Irish companies were so loyal to their own that they were often known as the Murphia, employing family members or Irish Catholics before anyone else.
No-one complained, it was just the way it was, but with the migration back to their homeland, there was a sudden labour shortage. Enter the Eastern European invasion courtesy of countries such as Poland and Lithuania who had recently become EU members, thus allowing them the freedom to work in the UK.
Over a short period, the payroll changed identity, with Murphy, Ryan and O’Riordan been replaced with Malinauskas, Ramanauscas and Niparavicius, which was quite challenge for all concerned as we had to check all their details and assist them with getting registered at the tax office (yes they paid tax).
Still, one thing soon beccame apparent, and that was that the loss of the Murphia boys was not as bad as had been feared as the Lithuanians in particular, were working hard, working five days a week and were never late or caught up in the ‘Monday Club.’
Don’t get me wrong, I loved a lot of the Irish lads, they were carefree, often naturally funny and great company in the pub. However, a good few of them had a penchant for gambling, heavy drinking and returning home to Cork for a week without telling anyone. It was a nightmare employing some of them.
There was a common joke around at the time that when Paddy was asked why he only ever worked four days, his answer was,“because three doesn’t pay enough!” What made the joke funny was that in some cases, it was true.
So as many of the Irish returned to their homeland, the Eastern European’s plugged the void that was left over, at least until the Celtic Tiger was uncovered as nothing more than a kitten and the the financial sector collapsed in 2008.
By the time the Irish lads came back, the Eastern Europeans had established themselves as a reliable source of labour, so they had to shape up a bit quick. Before you say “yeah cheap labour!” I must inform you that an agency is not allowed to pay less to EU workers than they would anyone else. If you employ a carpenter, do you employ one who might turn up, or one who will turn up?
In fairness, I didn’t hear too much moaning, it was just accepted by most; it was people like Nigel Farage stirring up trouble which sections of the media jumped on to. Anyway, as a lot of their own economies improved through EU investment, a lot of the labour went home anyway.
If you asked a construction company to give you a discreet but candid answer, because of language issues, they would still prefer British and Irish labour, but they had either gone on to other careers or were not up to it, so EU labour was the best port of call.
Any reduction in pay rates was caused by supply and demand courtesy of the economic crash, not cheap labour; it was not a Lithuanian plasterer’s fault our financial sector was indulging in toxic debt and gambling away Britain’s future, just like austerity is not an immigrant’s fault.
Anyone paying EU labour low wages or cash was a crook; again not the workers fault, British or European, and generally, the rogue contractors were caught quite quickly by the HMRC.
There are not many things I am an expert in but after 19 years in this industry, labour patterns is one of them. During the last decade, all of the reliable British guys I have employed have remained in work. Even in the dark days of 2008 – 2012, there was always someone who could employ them even if the money was a bit crap.
So I am afraid a lot of these people you hear bleating about borders, jobs and getting their country back, are just making excuses for themselves and finding someone else to blame. I have seen it first hand and it really pisses me off to be honest, especially when a fair amount of them were on the first flight to Germany during their reunification building boom in the early 1990’s.
Check any successful economy in the Western World and see the immigration levels…start with Germany, a fine example.
If Andrea Leadsom is to ban freedom of movement as part of her Brexit campaign and Article 50 negotiations, she can only be preparing for an economic crash, because there is one thing a big city needs when the economy is booming.