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Whether he was on air as a result of what have been dubbed the ‘Marmite Wars’ or whether he’d have been given airtime anyway, Tesco chairman John Allen was talking on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme on Tuesday and while I disagree with a lot of what he said, he did raise a point that’s pertinent to the cleaning industry in the UK – and indeed globally…
The question of using low-skilled or unskilled migrant labour to fill jobs – such as cleaning – that the locals perhaps don’t want to do. It’s something we all seem to do and it certainly got me thinking…
If you didn’t hear the discussion, he argued that the UK should not be considering accepting only highly skilled migrants – a move that some people are calling for and which I know that many in this industry find worrying.
He said: “I think we need many people who do much more ordinary, but nonetheless extremely important, jobs.”
That’s a sentiment with which those in the cleaning industry and many at the receiving end of our services will agree, since a large proportion of the major contractors rely on low-skilled immigrant labour to keep cleaning and facilities management contracts running smoothly. And yes – this is important work.
The industry has done a lot to raise its profile with the general public over recent years and I’d hate to return to the days when cleaners were in short supply and an entire shift could disappear ‘down the road’ if the local Tesco raised the minimum hourly rate of pay over what they themselves were earning, leaving the contractor in dire straits.
But what’s the answer? Is it a case of needing to be more flexible and perhaps ensuring that everyone who comes into the country – any country – to work, carries a work permit?
Employers in the UK are currently responsible for checking the credentials of employees and face heavy fines for employing those that don’t have a right to work here (something I’ve never felt is reasonable or fair). Should the onus perhaps be placed once again on the shoulders of those that man our borders?
Love him or hate him, you have to admit that John Allen has raised a point that needs to be considered… I’d be interested in learning your views – and as I said, this isn’t just a UK thing but a global question.
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27th October 2016