• Employee (Speyfruits)
Location:
Elgin
Date:
Thursday 20th November 2008
Reference:
SWI2008/012

Simon:

We’ll start with when you first came over. Did you specifically decide to come to Scotland or were you just looking for work in general and this is what came up?

     

Employee:

Actually, that was first to come down here and I see. In the UK, not actually in Scotland. And where would be better and I was decide ... When I first actually, when I was to come here to Elgin and when I see that small town, like not so many people, it was low you know? I decided to stay here. And after two months was coming to me wife with daughter and they’ve got a great ... First my job was in a farm. I was working like a poultry man, you know? That was terrible job for me because it was summertime when it’s very hot. This was impossible to working full-time, you know? It was better part-time, that’s the best idea. I was living at the job and after that I’m coming here to Spey to work. Actually I’m happier.

Simon:

How long have you been at Spey Fruits?

     

Employee:

Nearly two years. I started for few times when they were very busy and they need some people to help. I was started for a few days, for a couple of weeks, and after that they say: “If you want to work, we like you to come down.”

     

Simon:

Did you have a job arranged before you left Poland to come to the UK?

     

Employee:

First I left to come to UK. It was ... I was come around at one job in London but before I got one and I was coming here to see my family, actually my wife’s family, I was thinking to spend here around one week and just go after that to London. But I stayed up here working instead.

Simon:

So your wife’s family are here? Her relatives? Your wife had relatives that were already working here?

     

Employee:

Yes. She’s working now in Bank of Scotland and she’s working there two years just now. But she, first her job was here in Spey Fruits. But she has changed about because here the shifts are sometimes longer and she was expected to work the longer time, you know? But when we have a daughter, somebody needs to be at home on the proper time. That’s why she decided to change the job.

Simon:

How old’s your daughter?

     

Employee:

She’s ten years old.

     

Simon:

How’s she finding school? Is she ...?

     

Employee:

Ah, she enjoys it. She’s good ... popular? And always when I go for the parenting night that they say that she’s behaving good and she’s learning quick. I am happy about her. I am so proud, you know? She’s ... Better speaking English than me but she’s sometimes afraid. That’s simple to understand, you know? I was working and so to try to learn, she only have the time for learn. You know that any child catch the language so much quicker.

Simon:

What kind of work were you doing in Poland before?

     

Employee:

I was working in construction but self-employed and for seven years ... Beginning was very hard for me but after two years I started employing people and actually before I get bankrupt I was employing thrity people. That’s a good company. Like, for example, employ ... Especially for a young man like me.

Simon:

It’s interesting that ... That’s one of the areas that Polish people seem to be working in is construction, like in the UK. It’s a bit of a stereotype in a way, but it seems to be an area where skilled people find employment.

     

Employee:

I was coming at the winter time and I never actually get the job in construction but maybe I don’t work out there. But I think any work, like here you know is good. Is much better from this work than back in Poland which ... That means it’s OK. My experience with construction is long but ... I’m happy about this job.

Simon:

Do you want to go back to construction or ...?

     

Employee:

Hmm ... Maybe I do some self-employed, sometime next year maybe. I would see because I’m not sure. Because to self-employ, is very difficult to start and also you need to have some saved money, you know? And that means kill the cash flow and when self-employed it’s very difficult. Especially with other nationality. I know some guys who started self-employed and they are better working somewhere that doesn’t have the problem with the paperworks, everything. Just easy money you know?

Simon:

... (inaudible) ... Could you explain what work you do? What’s ...?

     

Employee:

Oh, like ... Just to say manual worker. Actually, I do a lot of things here from the forklift driver, some pavings, sometimes the carrots ... The slicing, shredding, everything, you know? Cleaning, if we need that to do. That’s actually all work in this company, what we need to do.

Simon:

So you just move jobs as ...?

     

Employee:

Because it’s not so big company to have one place in the line and just working all the time in one job. Sometimes you need to do any extras job but that’s what’s good sometimes because you don’t stay on the line and you don’t have a crazy job in one place. Just sometimes it’s changed, that is good. That’s why I probably stay here for a longer time. I’m the type of man that doesn’t like the line eight hours a day for example.

     

Simon:

Is it quite a mix of people working on the site here? How many people are Polish? People from Latvia ...?

     

Employee:

Ah, it’s actually ... it depends from the order because we sometimes have people from agency if it’s big order. If it’s small order like normal, that’s working about eight up to twelve people maybe in the one shift, you know? We don’t have so many Polish people but sometimes is working seven, eight, people in one shift, sometimes only one or two. It depends how the mix of the people and the management make it, you know?

Simon:

... (inaudible) ...

     

Employee:

It’s actually ... you speak English but not everybody can. It’s almost that all the workers are Polish and Latvian and we can speak sometimes Russian, sometimes Polish you know? We just speak the languages and that way we can understand between us.

Simon:

For people who’s English is not so good, how do they train ...?

     

Employee:

Actually, they use me to translate. If I’m not able, they pick some other guys to translate. Anyway ... Because a simple situation where we have ... For example, half year ago was working here a couple from Poland and they don’t speak English, you know? Didn’t understand the managers and supervisors and it was sometimes they are doing other things and I was trying to explain that: “If you don’t understand, just come down and speak with me. If it’s not possible that would be correct.” You know? But sometimes ... It was an old couple that doesn’t like to listen, you know? It’s simple situation. Old people don’t like to listen to other people. They do themselves what they think is right and ... that’s normal. Now there is more people who’s new that’s not English that is their language because it’s more young people ... sometimes happens, somebody doesn’t speak any language, only Polish you know? But this problem actually we have it sorted, you know? If some shift there is some Polish people that don’t understand, there is somebody speaking English that can translate for them.

Simon:

Do people from work socialise outside of work? Are people friends with each other or ...? People are working very long hours ...

     

Employee:

You know, like normal. Like everywhere, you know? Like first groups what we have, that is the national groups that we have. After that is some other nationality. Some French who is coming who ... (inaudible) ... Portuguese and Polish, they speaking very good sometimes. Latvian and Polish and other way you know? Anyway, sometimes we’ve got a problem with the difference you know? But that’s normal. It’s too many other nationalities and the mentality of the people is so much different. That’s why the problems are sometimes coming but it’s just only for a few minutes, or maybe hours, then it’s going away. We are everybody, you know? Like adults ... We have to understand that. Especially when we’re coming to this work, not the work coming to us. We have to understand and sort the problem our self, you know?

Simon:

What about people in Elgin, like when you’re away from work? Have you made many friends with people?

     

Employee:

It’s actually in Elgin there’s a lot of Polish people, and friendships? It’s difficult to say. We know each other but maybe not ... Maybe not all of them because it’s a lot of people. But it’s OK, you know? I have got just now more Scottish friends, like Polish ones, because Polish is like ... The mix ... Somebody is coming in, somebody is going away and never back and just like that, and that’s why friendship between us is not so strong like I’ve got with the Scottish people because we’re staying together and they can expect the next day I will be there. With some Polish people we say: “You can be my friend,” and next day they are away. Difficult to say about that.

Simon:

In some of the bigger cities like Aberdeen, there’s areas where it’s a lot of Polish people together, Polish areas ... In Elgin are people more ...?

     

Employee:

Yes, it’s maybe they can find some place where it’s only Polish people. Is actually it’s a mix. Because about the possibility to get house, something like that, you never have in one place. Always when you go to agency, one is up there ... Like in Aberdeen, I’ve got a friend. He say just the council just make special place for the Polish people, for example. They don’t have so much money, I don’t know. It depends.

Simon:

... (inaudible) ...

     

Employee:

I think yes, because I think we can fill the different cultures and we can try to exist with Scottish people together, you know? Somebody doesn’t like that but that’s normal situation.

Simon:

For accommodation when you first arrived in Scotland, where did you get somewhere to stay?

     

Employee:

Yes, it’s difficult because first you need to have some employment, you know? And after that some bank accounts and some money. You have to save to pay for the flat and ... deposit. They are for many people who are coming here, actually they have only the money for the travel. Maybe some few pounds to live for one month, something like that. And they need to get the money for the rest. That’s why it’s difficult to get. And council, when you go to council to ask for some help ... They will help you but not so much. Can give you money for a deposit, the rest you need to have for yourself. But the deposit after that, you need to pay them back after it, in next three months. It’s actually for a lot of them a good deal. It’s also that the agency is checking how you are working somewhere, if you’ve got a permanent contract it is OK. If you don’t, that is also they’re looking for that. It’s very difficult to get some recommendation.

Simon:

Iain says that he provides accommodation to some employees?

     

Employee:

Yes, he help a lot, you know? And it’s actually first thing ... He want to help. For example, two caravans. If somebody have difficulties to get the flat, they can go to the caravans for short time or for longer. That depends how the people want. But a lot of the people just need for a start so he help with that. He also help with them to get flat from agency or he have some friends or ... I don’t know how it works exactly but many people can get flat with his help, you know? And then sometimes we’ll need to pay a deposit, something like that. Everything actually is very difficult to say.

 

Anyway, from this company a lot of people like the job, here to work, but actually for a start to live in Elgin, it’s very good to come down here because they can get good money for the work. Maybe for somebody, somebody says no, because it’s not the minimum but the minimum ... Like I said, difference is if you’re working here, maybe more hours somewhere else. For example, my wage is around five hundred pounds a week, you know? That’s good money. But when I receive, you know, for me four hundred pounds is very good.

Simon:

How many hours a week do you work?

     

Employee:

It depends, you know? Sometimes thirty-eight but really sometimes almost fifty-five, sixty, sometimes around eighty hours a week but, you know, whenever you are in a situation where you have to work you just ... if you want, you work all the time. Of course, up to fifty-five hours per week they expect you will be working but if you don’t want, nobody’s telling you that you must. That’s OK.

Simon:

And do you get healthcare and holidays? Do you just take a day off if ...?

     

Employee:

Actually, you know, I take in a lot of days to look after my daughter. If I need to take, that is during the week sometimes I pick her up two and three weeks together, you know? All the time take all of that and sometimes more. That’s what I need, you know? Actually, you know, normal situation where I can just now, before Christmas time ... Actually from September up to end of December, you have to be able to be in the work, you know? They do expect you coming down because that is the time for this company, you know? But after December you can take your holiday like you want.

Simon:

You mentioned ... Because both of you are working and you’ve got your daughter, a lot of people ... Childcare is very important. Do you use the council for childcare or just work it out yourselves with friends?

     

Employee:

Actually we always, from the beginning, when she was working on the day shift I was working on the night shift. Or ... Different now, we change that. Or sometimes we just have somebody who is living with us in the house but always some adult was in the house, you know? Like just now. My wife is finished the work, she is going home. Daughter is finished school at three o’ clock, she is going always to somebody’s house. When she’s going to school, I was at home. It’s never that she was alone. I don’t know, maybe one or two times it was difficult for us in two years like we are in Scotland to have the problem to look after her but ... Just learn. In three years that happens two times, it’s not a lot. I guess not simple situation. If you need to get to work and understand what happened. She was on holiday from school and I have to go to work. My wife, she have to go to work. I can’t take her up to my work, she also can’t. And all the other friends was away from the school. Just go for holidays. But we were stuck and I was just having good position when I was working and I can just pick every two hours to go home and check her. I was very strict about the situation, I don’t like to leave my child alone at home. But that has happened, you know?

Simon:

Have you noticed any kind of changes in the time you’ve been here? People coming over or whether people are tending to stay longer or going back home?

     

Employee:

Oh, you know. I am coming here just staying for good now. That’s what I say. I don’t know I stay in Scotland, you know? I was thinking about UK only. Actually, about Ireland. But just now I don’t ... Up to today I don’t change my idea from the beginning but a lot of people coming here would say: “Ah, I am just coming here to make some money and come back to Poland,” and after one or two years are saying they decide to stay longer or for good. Many people, just with coming and they say: “I’m coming for good!” they actually coming back to Poland. I think because ... To say about all of them but somebody would like to stay here because anyway here in Scotland, actually in UK, it’s much more easy life for us, you know? If you’re working for the minimum wage, you know, at thirty-eight or forty hours per week, you have enough money to have a good quality of life. In Poland it’s impossible. I remember before I come down here that was hard time for me when I just lose my company, you know? I lose also my own money and the ... (inaudible) ... I started working for somebody else. That was not enough to fund me to have a good quality of life but maybe because I was on the high, living the life, before ... Maybe that way but a lot of people, very hard for them. They say: “I don’t have enough money, I need to share from somebody else.” Like they say from the first ... (inaudible) ... it’s very difficult to ... to manage. Actually, in Poland it’s the mentality paying once a month. Here you’ve got the money every week, it’s so much different. Of course some jobs also they pay only per month or other times but I like the one week. That’s very good.

Simon:

Is the recession affecting people at all? You know, the credit crunch? The pound is not so strong against the złoty now.

     

Employee:

That’s working for somebody, you know? But for me that doesn’t bother. Actually, when I decide to come here I don’t keep a flat or a house in Poland, you know? I don’t keep other people to give them money to have a better life and I decide coming here. That’s not when the pound was worth the same money as before, you know? Just for me it’s enough what I’ve got here. Sometimes I decided because the petrol is too expensive but that is the ... every European country is the same. Everywhere is going up. When you just start thinking about that, actually it’s better here. Nothing changed. Also the minimum wage is going up too but ... maybe not so quick like the transport, you know? It’s OK.

Simon:

... (inaudible) ... Something that seems to be in the smaller towns is really when people form groups to help out with language and healthcare and stuff like that but that doesn’t seem to exist in Elgin. Is that because there’s more people here and people help each other or ...?

     

Employee:

It’s actually, like, for me that works very well because my wife is very angry about the situation because always when I come down sometimes home I’ve got some phone calls: “Please come down help me, I need some help,” and I’m always ... From the beginning when I come down here when I just start speaking English, I start “Help, Help” to the people, you know? I always busy about something or just going to the bank, to the council, everywhere. To do work also. A lot of people need the translation for their first day at work, you know, and I am sometimes going up there. For me, I don’t expect from them some money, but somebody’s just trying to get some money for some kind of help like that. That I think is ... (inaudible) ... in picking up some money from somebody who is starting to live here. Help is help and that’s the difference but many people don’t understand it. Up to today, maybe in last two weeks for me, I was very busy to help them, you know, about the language actually. Sometimes a lot of people need some help. Extra hands to help them you know? To change the flat or to fix the parts because not always is somebody speaking English. I never take from them any money because I know that life is never easy and if I started to charge for help, the money, I won’t be sleep in bed. Not a good idea.

Simon:

The groups I’ve met do it for free. They basically help out. That group in Banff that’s all Polish people and they sort of help each other out and they made a group so they can share the help.

     

Employee:

Yes. That’s not everywhere but some groups are like that. They also help each other, you know? To find a job, to ... I don’t know. If they don’t have a job and need some recommendation or ... People is able to help, you know? But it’s like everywhere, you know, where some don’t like to help anybody. It’s normal. I think that’s just life. My wife says always: “If you help them, why they don’t help you?” I say: “Because I don’t need their help, I can manage myself.” But sometimes maybe it’s right because sometimes I need some extra help for few minutes and I never call to somebody because that is my character. If I can manage myself, I do myself. That’s simple. Just normal for me.

Simon:

Iain was saying you want to be an actor. Was he joking or ...?

     

Employee:

(laughs) That was a joke because I was in ... (inaudible) ... this moment for a few minutes to collect my friend from work and he’s told me: “If you come here on the proper time,” I say: “Yes of course I come” and he say there will be some cameras, something like that and to catch this moment and I say: “Where is the camera? I want to be an actor!” It’s normal. I like the relation between me and the boss here. It’s familiar, very familiar. It’s OK. Also with the manager. Sometimes they are very bad for us but they have to, you know? It’s like with animals that’s working for people too. If you don’t have any control, you doing what they want. That’s the situation. That’s why they sometimes, it’s really hard for us but I understand that. I don’t know like anybody else but for me it’s easy to understand. Psychologics, no? (laughs)