Britain is in the middle of an acute shortage of workers in low-paid, long-houred and only short-term secure jobs. Basically, jobs without much of a future for the worker who is temporarily employed in them. Experts tell us its all the fault of Brexit, while others tell us that it’s all caused by the pandemic! Those things can and should be factored into any equation but in the end, it really is all down to capitalism!
It is capitalism that does not prepare for short term changes in production or distribution. It is capitalism that will depend on pushing a worker’s wages and conditions down as low as possible so that they can undercut a competitor. It is capitalism where low-tech industries pay little heed to training workers for tomorrow as they always assume that there will always be someone who has to do the shit jobs even if you need occasionally to put the wages up a bit!
There has been discussion around using soldiers to drive HGVs for some of the industries screaming out for drivers including fuel, farming and shops, and the army certainly have drivers and instructors to help train civilians wanting to move into driving, as well as assessors able to give licences, after all, they’re not invading anyone at the moment, so they keep busy, and, they are already paid for. In the long term, however, its not only wages and conditions of civilian drivers that have to improve, it is the training and testing that currently has to be paid for by the trainee that must be covered by either the state or the company in need.
Also, another long-term solution may be to look at the waterways still interlocking much of Britain and possibly rebuilding the once mighty rail infrastructure we had to take a lot of the freight off the heavily congested motorways that also make a contribution to poor distribution.
Other areas of shortage at the moment include meat processing, waitering, line workers in factories and packing plants, labourers, care-workers, warehouse workers and a host of others.
There are arguments going on at the moment about giving short-term work visas to foreign workers to come here to help sort out some of the problems and we would be quite happy with that as well, but what about the solution that everyone in power wants to push back to the bottom of the suggestions pile but which keeps on surfacing, ie, allowing asylum seekers to work and earn while they are here waiting, sometimes years, for the chance to live here?
There are some 125,000 asylum requests waiting to be processed at the moment. They are here, but, they cannot now work or seek work. They still need to be fed and housed which is covered by the state. Can you imagine the difference to them if they were allowed to do paid work while awaiting judgement? They would contribute to their own care and lodgings, their self-esteem and mental health would receive a boost, they would learn the language and customs of the land to help them integrate better if they are accepted and if not at least they would have a little money to help them at the other end.
What would it mean to us? Jobs that no one wants to do would be done, reducing shortages in many sectors. The money spent currently housing and feeding the asylum seekers could be redirected.
There have been some voices raised against this idea including ‘If you pay them to come here it tells others to do the same’. If it does, is that really a problem? Capitalism cannot solve the need for low-paid workers in some industries and, as most asylum seekers get turned down, at least they got something from their time spent here.
Even, the Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, has said that he was open to the idea, while there are hundreds of businesses, employment recruiters, trade unions, economists, MPs, religious groups and refugee organisations calling on the government to lift the ban. Britain has an aging population and the number of job vacancies is rising, primarily in jobs that people don’t want. That is bound to happen as the shortage gives people choices and naturally they go for the better paid job that also has better conditions.
During the worst of the pandemic, while people stood on doorsteps clapping health workers as they struggled through the crisis, our government’s red tape prevented nurses, doctors, healthcare assistants, and other medical experts who are sitting in our asylum system from working and aiding that struggle even a little. The number of people waiting for their asylum applications to be processed is not big enough to fill the UK’s growing labour gaps, but lifting the ban could make a huge difference in many situations around the country and make some difference to the lives of refugees and their families.
There is only one reason that anyone would want those people left sitting idle and that is to make them targets for those who illegally employ people without choices at a pittance undercutting even the lowest of poor wages.
Capitalism cannot cure the ills and miseries of workers, it can only increase them which is why we need a solid Marxist-Leninist party to give a lead in smashing the current system, but even within capitalism some things like letting asylum seekers work just make obvious sense.