Intervention d’AC ! au séminaire « Précarité et migration  » (va)

version anglaise
mardi 12 octobre 2004
par  le réseau d’AC !

- version française...

« Precarity and Migration  »,
contribution by AC !, Agir ensemble contre le chômage

Migration, flight are tactics to escape misery, very low standards of living, or to avoid sociopolitical failures.
The migration problem is deeply linked to the work issue, as migrants are part of a global précariat -defined by its diverse shapes of mobility ie geographical and professional.
In France the migrants can enter the country legally if they have signed a work contract, those being managed by the IMO.
But the majority will remain invisible, undocumented, submitted to the most precarious working conditions and wages, with no rights. The closing of borders and migration controls are coupled with the increase of control over populations.
Today, precarity is characteristic of the evolution of employment : migrants are the most precarised, but the contingent of precarious workers is on the increase as well.
What are the answers to precarity ? Are freedom of movement and guaranteed income a necessary bases for an alternative mode of socialisation ?
The EU enlargement can help us to reflect. Polish workers can work in France or England today for a pittance ; they thus join the army of the working poor : no borders, freedom of movement ! But they aren’t entitled to social protection : These Polish workers, will be exploited here, will be excluded from the right to meagre allowances, such as the dole. And when their contract is finished, they will have to live with no income or to go back home.

  • I) Migration - precarity

The roots of migrations are quite well known : starvation, wars, economic exploitation but also to study and the search for better social protection.
In the middle of the seventies, the employment crisis pushed politics to stop migration flows and have forced this “international and professional movement of people” to become fixed. Already migration was tainted by precarity : and hard work, single men, housed in the most deprived areas or in the smallest accommodation, with no privacy.
The gamut of EU legislation is worsening the migrants’ entry and settlement conditions as well as affecting refugee status ; including the reforms of work legislation.
The logic is order to diminish the cost of any social protection scheme, let’s diminish the categories of people entitled to it.
The foreigners can be prevented from entering the country, or left with no rights so that they work very cheaply ; or their presence can be controlled drastically through contracts, through fixed term, discontinuous professional activity.
The IOM contracts authorize through these fixed term contracts the presence of foreign labour.
The arrival and return is framed by the contract, and the working conditions are devalued in comparison to national legislation.
For instance the Polish workers at Alsthom, or the Turkish workers that the Employment Minister, M. Aubry called in during the 2000 storms to do woodcutting, were employed under semi-clandestine conditions.
French or foreign workers, employed legally, can be made redundant or fear for their wages if they are employed under an unfixed contract.
Qualified jobs are also affected by this “delocalisation” phenomenon.
The migration policies have to be changed, not the migratory flows.
In order to fight against all forms of precarity, migrants should be entitled, as soon as they reach Europe, to the same economic and social rights -to employment, housing,and social benefits-.
If they are unemployed, they should be entitled to social aid (with the objective of a guaranteed income, equal to minimum wage).
Citizenship should be accorded when requested. Social services must have the means to offer language training, and social and institutional knowledge of the territory in which they settle.
Under these conditions, the undocumented will no longer exist neither competition, real or imaginary, on the labour market.
The same social rights for migrants imply the impossibility of employment under lower conditions, so lowering risks for nationals.
The same work, the same contract, the same job, an equal wage, the same boss, the same fight !

  • II) EU policies of precarious employment

On the wealthiest continent, poverty and precarity are the common fate of one in three inhabitants, as they can’t access the fundamental rights to income, housing, or free choice of their employment.
In June 2000 in Lisbon, the heads of state and governments decided that the EU would be the most dynamic area in the world : they talked about “full employment, and social cohesion “
But the policies of activation show their true face : forced employment, social control, demonisation.
The reforms of the unemployment benefits and the social aid schemes, have shortened the length of allowances and have reinforced the access controls, which aim at reducing the benefits of claimants who are forced back to crap and underpaid jobs, as fast as possible.
There are, according to the statistics, 1 ,300, 000 working poor in France ; and, in Europe, 1 worker in 5.
Today, the Boltkestein directive on the privatisation of services speaks about “ the home country principle.”
If an interim agency puts its headquarters in Poland, it can call in Polish workers to work on Belgian building sites, with no need to ask for any authorization. These workers will be under the Polish legislation : Polish wages, and Polish social security.
In France, the “Plan de Cohésion sociale” initiated by the Ministry of Employment, aims at creating new working contracts “Future contracts” which mean under paid jobs, employers subsidies, and reduced employment cost (about 2 euros an hour !)
In Germany, the unemployed for over a year will be “offered” a 1 euro/per hour job (about 200 euros a month) which can be added to their meagre benefits. This measure will be implemented after January 1st, 2005. This is part of the Hartz IV plan, against which we are developing mobilisations at the moment.
In Britain, after the New Deal and other destructive measures against the Unemployed incomes, the government aims at making the most drastic attacks on disability benefits - paid to about 2 million people.
The barriers to employment must be removed ; ‘Disability Premium’, of course, is a one major obstacle. What it means in practice is lowering the living standards of the sick and disabled in order to ‘encourage’ them to accept any precarious work.
No income without employment -‘workfare’-, no income without training -‘edufare’- today we train to get more skills, behavioral skills, such as politeness, or skills at the lowest level, but no qualifications to enable us a minimum of conditions -wages, working conditions- to obtain a decent job.
The EU wants more and more operational workers in the flexible and precarious labour market ; it demands more and more mobility from wage-earners ; the reforms of education, and professional training are part of the same objective.
The EU programme is about privatising the welfare state : all risks ; illness, unemployment, old age, won’t be insured through a collective mutualisation system, but through private insurance, according to the principle of insurance capitalisation.

  • III) Mobility -precarity.

Wage earning, as a dominant model, as the measure of the use of social time, is in real crisis. Working time and life time merge more and more.
The modes of organisation of production and welfare are in the middle of a mutating process.
For 30 years, atypical forms of employment, part-time, fixed term jobs and interim work, jobs subsidised by the state, develop throughout Europe.
Professional lives are more and more composed of the alternating between employment, training, and unemployment : the wage earners lives are increasingly subject to mobility (forced or desired.)
What is at stake in mobility is what or who controls it (whether it is the result of an employers command or a strategy of resistance and flight.)
For the employers, the State, this mobility must be tamed in the harness of employment : the subjects will be defined by their jobs.
In France, the fight of the « Intermittents and precarious  » for a new model of indemnification of discontinuous working has revealed the true discontinuity of employment.
Intervals, periods outside employment, availability itself is productive, because they are part of these subjectivation processes.
They constitute liberated time, lines of resistance, that we could fill with new cooperation.
But our mobility, our time, will only be free when we will be given back the bridle : a guaranteed income would make us the masters of our own lives.
We would then be able to raise issues of working conditions and wages before accepting a job, we could refuse crap, ‘Kleenex’ (disposable) jobs.
As the attacks on social rights are unprecedented in Europe, as the EU wants to adopt a reactionary Constitution, it’s time to initiate a European campaign for new social rights, especially the right to an income. With or without a job !


6 novembre 2005 - Campagne Y’EN A ASSEZ

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