• Gunta Lielmane
  • Sandra Teterovska
Location:
Peterhead
Date:
Saturday 6th December 2008
Reference:
SWI2008/023

Gunta:

I’m working in fish factory ... And I’m fish filleter. And just one month ago I got another job in Fraserburgh Community Centre. I’m session leader youth worker. And that’s second. One job is more close to my education and I am happy for it because I got it.

Sandra:

I am also working in fish factory, International Fish Canners, and in warehouse packing cans. But I like this job because I see where production go and what countries - Australia, Belgium, Holland, Denmark. This is why I like my job.

Simon:

And in the fish factories, both of them, the rest of the employees, are they Latvians, Lithuanians or any Scottish people? What’s the kind of mix of ...?

     

Gunta:

In my factory it’s a mix. Maybe half Scottish people, half people from Eastern Europe from Latvia, Lithuania and Poland mostly.

Sandra:

And my factory, the same as this. We’re ‘International’ Fish Canners. It’s also many Scottish people, English, Polish, Lithuanian, some Latvian peoples. But I see more and more come Polish people who have every good educations and start better jobs and not only packers but also in office start working and supervisors.

Simon:

And did you both get the jobs through an agency or did you get your work by just applying directly?

     

Gunta:

Eh, I got the job directly with applying and I am very, very happy for that and it was in the first year when I came here.

Sandra:

First time when I come to Scotland, I work with agency I think two years, maybe. And after try put my documents in factory and now I am working ... Do not have agency. Working in factory which is directly.

Simon:

Does it make a difference ...? When you work directly, do you get different payment or treatment than when you work with the agency? Is it better for you?

     

Gunta:

I think it’s more better for everyone to get job directly because everything is in good order because we’ve got good tax or we pay VAT and we pay insurance and is all OK for all our documentations and for us. But with agencies we never know how much money the agencies took for us and sometimes with agencies we don’t get paid on the date when they told us.

Simon:

So when you were working through an agency, what happened, did the fish factory pay the agency and the agency pay you?

     

Sandra:

And the agency second pay us.

Simon:

And did you have a proper contract with the agency? I take it you were contracted to an agency?

     

Gunta:

I worked just one month with agency and I haven’t contract.

Sandra:

I also don’t have contract with agency but now I have contract and all things is better. And also, I think if you’re working with agency you have also little stress because you don’t know what is your future. Maybe agency say: “I don’t like you,” or something, but if you working directly, you have contract and this is ... All the things is better.

Simon:

And you’re saying there’s more people from Eastern Europe getting managerial jobs within the fish factory itself? Like supervising positions?

     

Gunta:

Yes, yes.

     

Simon:

And are there employees who come through ...? Because it seems like it’s not work that people would want to do necessarily, so it’s the kind of work you might do at first, and then move on very fast. So people come for a short time and move on. Is that the situation or are there many people that stay in the company? Does it feel like a stable job or ...?

     

Gunta:

Do you mean for all people who are coming here who is working in fish factories?

     

Simon:

Just in general, yeah.

     

Sandra:

Ah, general. The general thing would be ... The job what we are getting so is the first job that we can get without the language, without good language skills. And then when people are staying there, they are learning English and when they have good English then that is the reason when they can get better job. But it’s understandable, it’s normal thing.

Simon:

And to move from the agency to being directly employed, how did that happen? Did the company ... Did the fish factory say: “We now want to employ you directly,” or did you just apply for a different job somewhere?

     

Gunta:

My example was I just apply straight away to another fish factory, not ... I just went away from agency and I try myself to get a job. I think it’s the better reason, how to get permanent job. I think so. Because to enter it from agency is not so easy too because they need people who is working with them.

Sandra:

But, also this is about language. You need to know this language also, because you can ...

Gunta:

You have to speak English every time. You have to understand all things in English and it’s normal. Everyone I think have to do it because we are working here in Scotland, in UK, and we have to respect traditions here, people here and everything here. We have to respect it’s ... (inaudible) ...

Simon:

A thing I was wondering, if people ... If there were people who stay in the agency a long time? And if the conditions are bad with an agency job, do they know they’re bad? Do they know they can get a better job?

     

Gunta:

I think they know about better jobs but not everyone wants to learn English, and I think they just stay in the agency and work and that’s it and don’t try. Maybe they are very shy people. Some people are very shy, don’t trust themself about English because they think: “Oh, I never learn English.” They could just learn little bit English words. And because it is the reason why they are staying there.

Simon:

And when you came did the agency provide you with accommodation? Or did you find accommodation yourself?

     

Gunta:

For me it was the agency find accommodation for me. It was first month when I came here. That was good for me.

Simon:

What did you have to do?

     

Sandra:

With agency. I take application forms from other factories and put my applications in in these factories and after waiting for answer for long time and when I got this letter from another where have vacancies I go to interview. And in interview, manager say can you working or you cannot working in this factory. It’s the story.

Simon:

Also wondering about accommodation, did you have to find your own when you came?

     

Sandra:

No.

     

Simon:

So the agency provided it or did you have to look for the flat?

     

Sandra:

I need to look for flat. All things start new. Myself.

Simon:

And what was ... The accommodation you got from the agency, was it proper ...? Would you say it was good accommodation? Was it fair accommodation?

     

Gunta:

I got just one bedroom with another woman from my country and it was two bedroomed flat and there were four people altogether with me. But I was happy because I get it first day when I came here. It was very good for me. But then I move to another place because we were very different people, you know? It wasn’t good for me but for first time it was good.

Simon:

And if you had to look for somewhere, where did you stay at first? Did you go to a hostel?

     

Sandra:

No. I ask other people where I can go to and I have agency contract and I rent my flat, rented my flat. And I think it’s little better not agency because if we have agency we stay I think, seven people in one house and sometimes also two women in one room and Gunta also said, sometimes very different people and sometimes is conflict or something. Maybe cheaper yes, but not comfortable.

Simon:

Where you work, the other people you were working with, were they able to give you information and help you find ways to get your own work and find out about getting employment forms?

     

Sandra:

Yes, yes. They help me and told me more information about new possibility about where I could find job and where I could find application forms and do it. And then I just try myself to do it. It was good too because they knew more than me when I came here first time. Yes, it was.

Simon:

And at what point did you each get involved with the Migrant Workers Association?

     

Gunta:

For me it would be to get more information for things in the UK. It’s the main reason and to me it would be more interesting people.

Sandra:

It’s the same for me also.

Gunta:

Because I think here is that situation when ... in a session of a meeting, we can get information about new things, about house, about schools, about housing ... about everything I think. About laws ...

Sandra:

... and stop!

     

Simon:

Were you both at the first meeting in Peterhead?

     

Gunta:

Yes.

     

Simon:

Did you see an advert? There was the meeting at first where a big number of people gathered.

     

Gunta:

But we started before it and Sandra was the first person. She involved me in that association.

Sandra:

Because when we first see Mindaugas. This is why.

Gunta:

And it was one year ago when we started it and then slowly, slowly ... And yes, here is coming more people in the Association because I think everyone needs information and especially about housing and especially about families who have children, little children. Is very important, I think.

Sandra:

And also very important about health.

Gunta:

Is about health too. Because here was very good meeting about with health, about health problems. It was very, very good. It was on Saturday and it was all Saturday, all afternoon. It was ... Lots of experiences I have got there.

Simon:

And do you both help organise it as well?

     

Gunta:

Yes.

     

Simon:

What do you do?

     

Gunta:

We are just asking our friends to come here and we are telling them that information what we are getting here. And little bit with organisation too. With Mindaugas and Carol. It’s the main reason we are here.

Sandra:

It’s the main reason we are here.

     

Gunta:

But that’s good because I think people are just very, very shy. They are not going ... Not open people. They are just staying home, they are just meeting, just their close friends ...

Sandra:

Or watch TV ...

     

Gunta:

... watch TV. Sometimes they can get TV of their countries. They are watching their language all the time and that is the reason they can’t speak English too. Because if you are listening every day, English, through the TV it’s a more important thing to learn it. But maybe I think when we will work with the Association we will make some events maybe for people who are here and to make them trust in the Association. It’s the important thing. Maybe they are just thinking: “Oh, there is nothing. What about information? I could go to job centre and ask them about information,” but it’s not so easy to because they need again ask in English what they need. But here you can ask in your language because there are people from many countries in Eastern Europe too.

Simon:

So do you have a committee to run it?

     

Gunta:

Yes, we have committee. But it’s just one year and we are just in ... Just now we are just working to improve committee too, because when we started it was some people who find other jobs and other activities they are doing and we have to make the committee with new members.

Simon:

And it’s got a lot of members, like 270 people, which is the biggest I’ve come across. Most are about thirty or forty people. How do people find out about it? Do you advertise in work places or is it just by word of mouth?

     

Sandra:

I think it is couple of times just through friends. Mostly is through friends, not through workplaces I think. And just through that ... (inaudible) ... Hot Spot (community centre in Peterhead) too when people are coming here and asking many questions with me and Mindaugas. Mindaugas is advertising I think a lot because there is coming many people here and it’s popular place for people of Eastern Europe to come here.

Simon:

It’s not just Eastern Europe, you’re also looking to ...

     

Gunta:

Yes, yes. I think it’s open for everyone who is not Scottish or English. For everyone I think it is opened. For people from Africa, for Chinese people, for everyone! It would be very good I think to know changed experiences. And here in Scotland is very interesting because I met many people from many countries here, especially on English courses. I met one lady from China. In my work I met one lady from Norway. Then I met lady from Malaysia and that’s very interesting.

Sandra:

Taiwan?

Gunta:

From China? But I think in every country is good people and bad people and it’s all in the whole world it is, but I am very happy to have met them because the Chinese lady, she’s about more than sixty years old but she learnt English, she learnt computer, she went to swimming pool, she was very active at that age. That’s very, very good.

Simon:

Do you think that having a collective group like this will help ...? Because I think often when you have such a mix of people, the problem can be that each group within that ends up being quite isolated even though they have experience in common and similar situations and so is the idea that you can kind of overcome that isolation?

     

Gunta:

Yes. We would like to do it to mix them but it depends on people too. Because mostly, yes, people are just talking Latvian group, Lithuanian group, Polish group, but I think there are many people who wants to know about other countries too, I think. For example me! I would like to know about every country. It’s very interesting and we can find good people from other countries, that’s very good. I think it will be maybe the main purpose of us. One of purposes. Interesting people. To make good and interesting people and to do something good. To do some activities and maybe to help all Scotland because I think is not easy for Scottish people too because is many, many people from other countries but Scottish people are very kind, very kind people.

Sandra:

And very friendly.

     

Gunta:

Very friendly, yes.

     

Sandra:

And strong.

     

Gunta:

And we respect it. That’s very, very good thing. And maybe it is an improvement, how we can develop that place when we are ...

Simon:

Do you think having a collective organisation will also help people in the workplace?

     

Gunta:

Yes.

     

Sandra:

Yes.

     

Simon:

A group they can go to when they come?

     

Sandra:

Yes. It is one purpose too, to help other people with all questions, what they help. It’s about health and housing, education, children, benefits and many, many things I think.

Gunta:

But it’s not so easy. I think it’s very hard to open to people, to get them to come. They are saying: “Oh, yes, yes I will come,” but when that date is coming they are not there. They say: “Oh, you will tell me what it, what was ...” Every time it is, mostly: “I will not go there but you will tell me how it was!” (laughs)

Simon:

I think that’s common.

     

Gunta:

Yes, but I think is just my experience. What I get there. But he must come there and listen themselves all information.

     

Simon:

So last week you had someone from GMB trade union to talk to you?

     

Gunta:

Yes, but I wasn’t there. But Mindaugas told me it was very good, very good meeting, very good discussion. It’s about trade union. And I think it would be very good information because I am just watching what is happening there because I think is very difficult thing, difficult thing to help people and to involve them there too, I think.

Simon:

Do you think it would be a good thing for people, when they first arrive, to join a union and things like that? Like in the fish factories.

     

Sandra:

I think if they would know what it is about, that would be good. But they are just involving thing and paying some money and no help for it. I think that’s not good.

Gunta:

Not working.

     

Sandra:

Yeah, it’s not working.

     

Simon:

Is the union membership quite expensive?

Gunta:

Yes.

Simon:

So in that sense, the Migrant Workers Association, because it’s not a union and you don’t have to pay a membership, it’s more like a voluntary ... So in that sense, it’s able to provide some of the help the union would but it’s more open and easier for people.

     

Gunta:

Yes, it’s easier for people. But they have to know more information for trade unions and I heard it’s many of them here, trade unions. And we have to know more information I think because that information is just a little bit now.

Simon:

OK. One thing I’ve noticed with other organisations is that it’s mostly women or all women. Has that been the case here too? Although Mindaugas seems to be quite prominent in the organisation, is that just because he’s the translator?

     

Gunta:

I don’t know, I don’t know. You’re right in that it just mainly is women here.

Simon:

I’m just curious ...

     

Gunta:

Yeah. I don’t know why. Maybe men are just waiting. They are at home and waiting what will happen there. Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe is because more foreign women working here, not men, because men are looking in other countries for a job. I have experience from Latvia more, fish factories are woman workers but men, some go to sea, some go to Norway, some to another countries. This maybe situation, is balance. More women. (laughs)

Sandra:

And maybe men have jobs which are more on Saturdays or more ... For example, in two week time they are in work and can’t come here just. They are not free on Saturdays when we are coming here. I think is reason too because in our companies they are working and in building companies they are working and sometimes they are working on Saturdays up until five o’ clock or six o’ clock and that would be a reason too. Because when we are meeting on Saturday afternoon. Mostly I think men are working who are interested in it, I think.

Simon:

I just wondered because one of the groups ... There’s a similar group in Banff, but much smaller, and it’s all run by women but there’s also a kind of connection with people who had no childcare because a lot of the ... The background there is almost entirely Polish and it’s the case at least amongst them that they all organise childcare amongst themselves as well. So that created a network in itself so ... That support network they were in already, in a sense the organisation came out from that. But I don’t know if that was a factor here. Maybe because you’re a bigger group you’ve got much more ...

     

Gunta:

Yes, maybe.

     

Sandra:

Childcare you say? Ah, is very good.

     

Simon:

Yeah, free childcare and using the nursery or ... Because it’s expensive so ...

     

Gunta:

Ah, it’s very good. Is very good reason how to help each other. But here in Peterhead is not that experience. Just we are families who have children who are going to nurseries, just straightaway to nurseries or schools. It is happening.

Simon:

You’ve been able to get work here that’s related to the qualifications you have when you came. You’re quite lucky in that respect.

     

Gunta:

I am choreographer and culture manager. It’s my high education. Just ... I got very good job in my country but the salary for it wasn’t good and I am a single mum. I have two daughters and I had to do something to get more finance and I decided we can ... And its the reason why I’m here. Never in my life I thought about it. I think I will just still work in my country but situation was changed.

Simon:

You’ve now got community work so is that ...? Is that something from your experience?

     

Gunta:

Yes. I got the job what I did in my country, I worked with young people in my country too and with dancers. I was a dancing teacher and now I’ve got a girls dancing group. We are learning dancing and I ... (inaudible) ... and we are planning to improve as group too. More activities and to make Fraserburgh better. We are trying to make Fraserburgh better for young people and I am helping them! (laughs) That’s very good idea. Very good when twelve years old David told me: “I would like get the Broch better,” he told me. Super!

Sandra:

Super!