Thursday, February 25, 2010

Not at Work

Goodness me, I've been ravaged by food poisoning this week. It's hit my stomach and my head leaving me woosy and nauseous. Ulysse has been having a lovely time keeping me company in bed or on the sofa, and I've been doing nothing but snoozing, watching Agatha Christie mysteries and the Olympics on the tele and reading de Maupassant short stories (in English).

Last night I watched some of The Day the Immigrants Left on the BBC about a group of unemployed Brits who were invited to try their hands at the work immigrants do. They had been moaning about how immigrants take all the unskilled and semi-skilled jobs and how there's nothing left for them blah blah, usual stuff.

When given the opportunity to work, however, it became pretty clear why employers prefer to employ motivated immigrants. The Brits were mostly lazy, mouthy, stroppy, stressed out, or just didn't turn up for work. The skivers all said they were 'sick' or their girlfriend was 'sick' or some other unlikely coincidence involving someone being sick. It was sickening to hear.

The two lads who were picking asparagus kept taking time out to chat and smoke and say how hard it was and made a very poor show of doing the actual work. The carpenter objected to the manager telling him to his face he was doing something wrong (!) although he did actually finish the job he'd been set. The guys packing potatoes packed 100 crates with 10 instead of 12 packs and found it funny. In the Indian restaurant only 1 out of 4 turned up and he gave up half way through serving lunch.

You got the impression they all felt they were entitled to work as they chose, that they could take breaks when they wanted and just give up if it got a bit tough. Their excuse was that they were doing their best but that that was just the way it was. What a load of bollocks.

They came across as sorry, spineless, moral vacuums not deserving a job. Why should they be enticed to work? As one employer said, if you really want it, you get it. There are jobs out there, but the unskilled Brits don't want to do them.

The immigrants came across as discreet, motivated, hard-working and keen to do a good job. They showed the lazy Brits up and it does raise questions about benefits and how they kill the hunger to work.

The programme made salutary viewing.


  1. The progarm makers may have hand-picked their subjects, of course, just to make the film more interesting, but I fear you may have a point.

    I think the condition is quite widespread across western Europe these days: in France and Spain the only people seemingly prepared to pick fruit and vegetables on commercial farms are more-or-less legal itinerent workers from Mali or Senagal. Or sometimes the odd Brit fallen on hard times.

    Around here finding anyone willing to pick melons - hot, physical labour - is an annual problem for farmers. And they pay better than SMIC.

  2. Jon, I'm not sure they had to look too hard to find candidates for the programme. They probably had embarras du choix...
    The immigrants on the prog were Eastern Europeans and Indians and a Portuguese guy in the potato factory.

  3. Jon's right about seasonal work...a bit further south is apple country and they are having to get people in from eastern Europe because no one local wants the job.
    The only trouble was that this year the eastern europeans were short on the ground...word had got round that it wasn'ta good place to work because they couldn't work right through from dawn to dusk seven days a week...they had to take a two hour lunch break, knock off at five and not work the week ends because the French managers wouldn't supervise outside their normal hours!
    As for Maupassant, I think he describes the French character better than any other author or commentator.

  4. Fly, that's hilarious! In the UK, they have immigrant managers on the asparagus beds so that sorts that one out.

  5. I watched this too and was appalled by the apathy of the Brits. Evan Davis appeared to pick them up at random in the street: apparently no selection. I should think harvesting by its very seasonality is pretty hard work, and perhaps attitudes in the Uk have changed. I used to work in a clothing factory and we always lost some of our machinists to the sugar crop as it was better paid. The factory closed down years ago, I don't know about the sugar beet.

  6. Hope you are feeling better Sarah.

    I "watched" the program on the iplayer yesterday. While shocking I didn't find it surprising.

    There is a lecture given by John Bird (founder of the Big Issue) which just about sums up the whole thing: John Bird’s talk online
    quite a bit of strong language.


  7. Thanks for the link, Nick. Very interesting, coming from a man who's been homeless and got out.

    I'm getting better, thanks but it's amazing how much it knocked me out.

  8. I've only ever had two day food poisoning and that was bad enough.

    Get better soon.


  9. I saw the programme too - the outcome was to be expected, wasn't it?
    However, the New Husband, in his Wise Old Owl way, remarked that in his opinion it showed that education has completely lost the plot and we are churning out people who cannot do a qualified job of work and perhaps the time had come to reinstall apprenticeships, bring back technical colleges and give incentives to employers to form youngsters for real jobs. He may have a point.

  10. He does have a point, DD. Not everyone's an academic but everyone has a car, needs a plumber and so on.


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