There’s always a really high fear factor because a lot of migrants are told, for one, that you’re not allowed to join a union because you’re a migrant. They’re also told that if they join a union they’ll get sacked, and us trying to prove that gets a bit tricky because a lot of the time a manager will say: “Aww, we didn’t actually mean that, it’s this guy’s bad English, what we actually said was ...” and they’ll rephrase it to a legal requirement. The way we’ve been organising it has actually been to avoid any obstacles so we’re focusing on things like trying to set up a magazine, getting funding for Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian, English newspapers being set up ... And we’re also ... because of our involvement with the Migrant Workers Association up there, we’ve been able to get to people with the employers knowing about it and we’ve been able to tell them what the benefits of unionism are and also let them know that we want to go for all these places. So, partially because we’re not very far along in our campaign ... I mean, we haven’t approached any employers about recognition or anything; we haven’t raised any grievances. What we’re actually trying to do is avoid raising any grievances until we’re in a position to go for recognition. So hopefully we can avoid any kind of employer repercussions. I mean, partially they are ... we know that a lot of them are ... I’m not sure what it is, it’s kind of like Pilgrim Brothers or Free Presbyterian, where the religion of the actual owners kind of justifies, to their thinking, why they can remain non-union or stay non-union. So we know that there are going to be problems and we know that the employer does have the resources that if we unionise one place then they can potentially shut down that place and shift the work to somewhere else, so we’ve got to be very careful in what we’re doing. So, I suppose, that in itself will be the obstacle, in that we kind of know what we’re up against and we’re trying to get around it. We know that employer resistance is going to be the main one. There hasn’t been much of an obstacle put in place by the workers themselves which is very reassuring for us because it means that ... well, it means two things: one, is that the workers see that there’s a problem and understand that joining a union is the way to fix it; and the other thing about it, is that it also means that the employer’s potentially quite complacent and hasn’t had to deal with a union so they haven’t got any anti-union or union-busting strategies put in place already.

  • Dominic Allen
Tuesday 16th December 2008