Workers explained their circumstances. As we sat with them in the terribly overcrowded 'bedrooms' many wept from sheer frustration. Returning home to massive debts chalked up by payment to labour agents is a humiliating prospect that has led some migrant workers to take their own lives. Agents actively recruit workers in poverty stricken and jobless countries. I wondered about the men I met who will return home alive or uninjured, who will repay their debt and who will survive the shame if they "fail". I looked workers in the eye and felt immense anger at the betrayal of their human rights.
As you may well know, last week Labour leader, Ed Miliband, announced that if Labour were to form the next government they would encourage businesses to pay employees the Living Wage (approximately £8.55) by cutting business rates or tax levels for those that do. As someone who employees 20-30 people (some on PAYE and others freelance) at the London Jewellery School, I whole-heartedly welcome these plans.
Despite public perceptions that migrants have had a substantial and negative impact on wages, there is little quantitative evidence to date that suggests this. What is clear, however, is that migrants have increasingly come to dominate certain sectors and sub-sectors of the economy such as cleaning, construction and agriculture.