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Embodied labours: migrants in Greater London


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Title: Embodied labours: migrants in Greater London

Embodied labours migrants in Greater Londons
service sector
  • May 2008
  • Linda McDowell
  • School of Geography, University of Oxford

GeNet ESRC Gender Equality Network
  • Theme 1 Pathways to Adult Attainment
  • Changing Occupational Careers of Women and Men
  • Biographical Agency and Developmental Outcomes
  • Gendered Pathways to Adulthood
  • Theme 2 Resources, Gender, Ethnic and Class
  • Gender, Time Allocation and the 'Wage Gap'
  • Within-household Inequalities and Public Policy
  • Gender, Ethnicity, Migration and Service
  • Class and Gender, Employment and Family
  • Theme 3 Policy Responses to Gender Inequalities
  • Addressing Gender Inequality through Corporate
  • Tackling Inequalities in Work and Care Policy
    Initiatives and Actors at the EU and UK levels

Aims of Project 6
  • How a diverse migrant labour force is
  • assembled
  • segmented
  • maintained
  • how hierarchies of difference and
    desirability/suitability for different types of
    servicing jobs within the migrant labour force
    are produced and maintained, creating

Context of the research
  • Growth in the service sector feminisation and
    increasing polarisation of the labour market
  • Rise of poor work and multiple job holding
  • Use of agency and sub-contract labour is
    expanding in flexible labour markets
  • Increasing spatial reach of agencies new
    international division of labour in most local of
    servicing work where co-presence and face to
    face contact is essential
  • Nature of interactive work body work so personal
    characteristics (gender, skin colour, language)
    are crucial intersectionality and inequality
  • New migrants

A8 migration from 2004
  • EU accession states May 2004 Czech Republic,
    Hungary, Poland Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia,
    Estonia, plus Cyrus and Malta
  • EU accession states January 2007 Bulgaria and
  • Different rights
  • New points based system- growing significance of

Extent of immigration
  • Government estimates 5-15,000
  • Probable entrants between 600,000 and a million
  • No exit data
  • WRS (not required after a year of continuous
  • Age, gender and sex

What we did
  • Case study of public and private sector
    organisation with reliance on migrants labour
    force and use of agencies
  • 60 interviews in each organisation public
    sector WCH private BI
  • Interviews with personnel
  • Interviews with owners/managers of 10 agencies

  • West London (Wills et al in East London
  • High percentage of foreign born population,
    especially of Asian origin
  • Tight job market according to WCH report
    probably the most competitive in London in 2006
    when we stated interviewing
  • Teaching hospital upmarket hotel, part of an
    international chain

Focus of argument today
  • Agency workers as sub-set of most exploited (EU
    Directive CBI/TUC deal)
  • Their characteristics
  • Comparison between BI and WCH
  • Implication divisions of labour within migrant
  • Competition with local workers especially BME

Why agencies matter
  • As Peck and Theodore (2001) argued, employment
    agencies are thus both empirically and
    theoretically interesting as they are active
    institutional agents in the remaking of labour
    market norms and conventions, brokering as they
    do between under-employed workers on the one hand
    and would-be employers of contingent labour on
    the other, while turning a profit in the process
    (p 474).
  • Agencies supply workers employed under fixed
    term contracts to meet changing needs, providing
    what Booth, Dolado and Frank (2002) et al refer
    to as a buffer stock (p 182) to meet changes in
    the operating environment, including peaks of

Why they matter now
  • the only extra jobs at present in the UK
    economy are for temporary staff and the
    self-employed. This growth in contract working
    is almost certainly a reflection of the increased
    supply of migrant workers from Central and
    Eastern Europe Philpott, chief economist at the
    Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
    (CIPD 2007)
  •  Already mentioned CBI/TUC agreement

Types of agencies
  • the market which agencies construct and operate
    within is polarised between bottom end, low
    status and back street agencies, supplying
    warm bodies, and high status and highly skilled
    specialist workers for professional positions.
  • Parallels the wider pattern of polarisation
    emerging in service sector economies, between
    high status and credentialised workers in good
    jobs, and the generic, unskilled warm bodies,
    in poorly paid and insecure work.Former operate
    on large scale, often mulit-national in scope,
    workers often recuited in home country later
    more likely to be smaller-scale and to recruit
    here, although not always, as I shall show.

Agency workers at WCH and BI
  • Total number 22 at Bi and 23 at WCH
  • Warm bodies 20 at BI and 17 at WCH in bottom end
    catering, cleaning, security etc
  • 16 different nations represented 9 out of 20 at
    BI from Eastern Europe (mainly A8) only one from
    17 at WCH
  • BI recruits bodies through agency WCH buys a
    service from Greenspan

The comparison
  • New migrant labour force at BI East European and
    Indian, temporary, here in the main for training
    language and management skills
  • Older post-colonial labour force at WCH in
    country longer, lnger job tenure, wanted to stay
    both in UK and in NHS (though worked for an
    agency not NHS employees)

Young migrants in BI
  • It was a quick decision, I had a call from London
    from a Polish-owned employment agency, . . . .
    I bought a one way ticket from Warsaw . . . it
    was very cheap, but it was a bus, so 34 hours. .
    . . I arrived Saturday morning. I had to go to
    sign the contract with the agency that was
    Monday, the next day I came to work.
  • (Stanislaw Polish, previously in the army, early

Migrants in WCH
  • I am from Afghanistan. I came through India and
    Russia and I dont know where else. It took many
    months and I was not sure where I was at first.
  • I have job cleaning at WCH and I work in a bus

Hafizs job search
  • My friend working down in this car parking so I
    come because I come sometime, I say if you help
    me, so if you know someone, so if I find some job
    here. So after they told the supervisor, so the
    supervisor said okay if I have something, I can
    tell you but I cant promise. I said no
    problem, please if you help me, I want, Id like
    a job here at this hospital, so after they said
    okay. Im waiting about one and a half months,
    still with the agent. After they called me and
    said bring your paper and come here. So I come.
    . . . fill my form, everything, so I start my job
    about the last Sunday. . . . I do the cleaning in
    the ward, cleaning, everything I do. I am happy,
    I am really happy, . . . I love this job.

Role of agencies and sub-contractors
  • check references
  • undertake work histories
  • do the requisite police checks and WRS
  • arrange occupational health clearance and visa
    where needed
  • advise on living conditions, setting up bank
    accounts etc
  • if appropriate, interview applicants

Changing pool of potential recruits
  • theres quite a lot of the new European states
    now, the Polish, Latvians, Lithuanians.
  • Youve got the WRS so we have to make sure they
    apply for that which is time-consuming. We give
    them a month to apply but then we have got to
    chase them when they dont apply. They have to
    apply every time they go to a different job and
    its 70 a go. I dont think they are really
    educated on the importance of it. You ask some of
    them the Lithuanian, the Polish they dont
    know what the WRS is, so I have to sit here and
    explain to the best of my ability and to the
    point where I now have a stack of application
    forms in my drawer. You have to chase and chase
    and chase so its a bit difficult. Its hard to
  • Claire, agency employee recruiting in hospitality

Advantages for BI and WCH
  • Probation for permanent employment
  • Flexible
  • Easy to sack
  • Could use them to discriminate

  • Well, when it is BI staff and if its busy or
    not you
  • have to give them the job. If they do 10 rooms or
  • 16, you are paying them for 16 because this is
  • what the contract is saying. If you have agency,
  • how many rooms they do, that much you are
  • paying them. Its saving. Its simple. And when
  • dont need them, we say youre not working
  • tomorrow and thats it. This is why theyre
  • the agency, but it is horrible
  • Sylvia, BI Housekeeping Deputy Manager

Interactive work in the hotel
  • We look for someone whose got a very strong
    aptitude to interact with customers because
    that's key, that's what hospitality is about,
    whether that be on the front desk, whether that
    be in the restaurant, whether that be conference
    banqueting, even housekeeping, it's really
    important. ... We look for somebody who has a
    style basically, the kind of person that when you
    first meet, youll warm to because that's the
    image that Bellman has. It's all about
    hospitality, and we also look for someone whos
    very well presented, has made an effort.

Not got what it takes
  • We went to Hungary first and then to Latvia but
    so far it hasnt been very successful not like
    the Indian recruitment. There wasnt the actual
    aptitude I was talking about, the smiley, bubbly
    hospitality attitude, is not as prevalent in the
    people we interviewed, they're a lot more serious
    . . . , so there wasnt a natural what I call
    personality or that demonstration of Im here
    for the customer, so that was a little bit of a

Aggressive Poles
  • The main problem is language barriers and also
    cultural barriers sometimes, because perhaps what
    I consider to be rude or abrupt, another person
    might not see that as being rude or abrupt
    because thats the way they would generally
    converse with each other. . . I think the Polish
    people are quite headstrong, and so rather than
    just getting on with it, they ask why? Why?
    Why?, then you gave to explain, explain, explain
    and sometimes you just want to get on with it.

Compliant Vietnamese
  • we used to have Vietnamese people before and the
    Vietnamese people are very soft and compliant.
  • Parallels with Indian staff seen as having a
    heritage of service
  • Feminisation of Asian men

Indirect discrimination
  • I have asked the agency staff not to give me any
    more Polish staff, . . . because I think if I
    have a whole Polish staff it would be just too
    much to handle

An older labour force at WCH
  • At WCH, we interviewed agency workers from
    Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Malaysia,
    Algeria and Turkey but only one person from the
    A8 countries.
  • Been in country longer and planned to stay
  • More people of colour

Minority workers in Greenspan
  • The hospital and the sub-contractor Greenspan
    used to recruit, from an older, long-standing
    migrant population in the locality, predominantly
    British Asian women most of whom had come to
    Britain between 1968 and the mid 1970s, - these
    ladies are in their late 60s now, so they have
    been here quite a long time - to more recent
    migrants including Chinese, Afro-Caribbean
    (sic), Portuguese, Polish, Irish this is where
    it all starts to change, and now definitely with
    the East Europeans, thats definitely created a
    big change although she told us East Europeans
    were hard to place in the hospital because of
    poor English (Agency owner who recruited for

Same old gender divisions of labour
  • Women as care assistants and cleaners
  • Men as doorstaff, heavy cleaning, in BI waiters
    and kitchen staff
  • Relies on stereotypical characteristics of
    femininity and masculinity

Caring in WCH
  • Some people they havent got a family and like
    myself I was giving more care to the people who
    havent anyone, because they dont have a visitor
    they dont have anyone looking after, doing right
    thing, because some people come in and check, you
    know? But some people havent got that and that
    I think in myself I was saying, you know make
    more effort and we do the care, because I will do
    this and we will talk to them. That can be hard,
    it was emotionally, it was very emotional.
    (Habiba, Health Care Assistant, female, Somalia)

Care work by cleaners at WCH
  • If they're short of staff, they will ask me if I
    can go on the ward to help the patients ...I
    really love old people, I love to help old people
    as well. Yeah, I have a pity for old people, so I
    go there and Ill make them breakfast and tidy
    the ward, like mop and clean the sink and going
    in their room, clean anything, check toilets,
    soap and stuff, so Im used to itI like caring,
    sometimes I go there and I sing for them. (Amber,
    cleaner, female, Jamaica)

Cleaning at BI
  • Valentina, an agency worker, originally from
    Russia, describes her daily routine I should
    make ready my trolley. Put in chemicals. I take a
    key, I go upstairs, I knock in the door for
    sleeping. I start cleaning. Change beds,
    bathrooms, dust. . . . I should be quick and it
    is difficult.
  • Differs from hospital cleaning as (usually) no
    co-presence and so invisible

Dirty work at BI
  • It was a very dirty room, one hour is cleaning
    this room because everything is oh my God!
    Family, its one room and family, the children
    many children and all the rooms its oh my God!
    (Teresa, Polish agency worker)
  • Paid to clean 16 rooms in a shift

  • Migrant labour market segmentation neither starts
    nor finishes in the local labour market where it
  • Thus the most local of work (body/caring
    labour) is organised across multiple scales
  • Consequences for workers/EO policies, labour
    market policy.
  • bodies as products
  • Hierarchy of desirability
  • insecurity
  • Flexibility
  • Protection
  • Competition with local and BME workers (British
    jobs for British workers)
  • Implications for managed migration policies
  • citizenship
  • Regulations
  • GATS

Papers out
  • Economic Geography 83 (1), 2007
  • Global Networks 8, 1 2008
  • Journal of Ethnic and Migrant Studies, later this
  • Forthcoming
  • Brit.J. Of Industrial Relations late 2008
  • JEMS 2009
  • Gender, Work and Organisation 2009
  • Geoforum
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