viernes, 30 de agosto de 2013

Oliver's attack on our young jobless leaves a sour taste - Herald Scotland

In Mr Oliver's case, the dish of this week is his new television show, Jamie's Money Saving Meals (starts Monday, Channel 4). Since Mr Oliver usually has a lot of things to plug - television shows, books, kitchenware - his pronouncements on everything from school meals to poverty tend to arrive thick and fast. The man is becoming Nigel Farage with a fish slice.

With the world on the brink of another conflagration in the Middle East, what a millionaire chef has to say on any matter might reasonably be expected to register not a blip on the media's radar. This time, however, he has waded into possibly the only other subject, apart from involvement in Syria, that can get the great British cake-baking public up on its feet and shouting. Immigration.

Mr Oliver reckons that when it comes to working hard, migrant workers from the likes of Poland and Lithuania are a better bet than British youngsters. "Our European immigrant friends are much stronger, much tougher. If we didn't have any, all of my restaurants would close tomorrow. There wouldn't be any Brits to replace them."

Long working hours seem to be the problem. When Jamie was a lad, his working week averaged 80 to 100 hours. Today, courtesy of a European directive, it is 48 hours. Even that is too much for the Brits.

"I have never seen anything so wet behind the ears," said Mr Oliver. "I have mummies phoning up for 23-year-olds saying to me, 'My son is too tired'. On a 48-hour-week. Are you having a laugh?"

While one would not like to speculate on the comedic intentions of such "mummies", when it comes to worker motivation, immigration, and the state of the nation's youth, Mr Oliver's assessment is half-baked at best. He really should get out of his restaurants more if he believes one of the reasons for 973,000 British youngsters being unemployed is that they are allergic to hard work.

Still, Mr Oliver is at least to be congratulated for shifting the debate on immigration away from the poisonous territory it has been on of late. Praising the contribution of migrants makes a change from sending vans round the streets of London telling illegal immigrants to "go home or face arrest". How uncomfortable has that made life for migrant workers, legal or otherwise?

Despite being a country that made countless billions from the toil of overseas workers, and which sends its own people all over the world - Scots especially - the UK tends not to lay out the welcome mat for migrants.

Rich businessmen from anywhere are good; poor eastern Europeans are not. The default setting, even for the supposedly internationalist Labour Party, is to be agin outsiders coming in and taking "British" jobs.

All hail Mr Oliver, then, for giving migrant workers their due. His thoughts are far easier on the ear than the sort of dog-whistle politics that we will be hearing more of in the months to come as restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians are lifted, and a UK general election draws closer.

Mr Oliver, who is worth an estimated £150 million, is a good egg in other ways, not least for setting up his Fifteen restaurants which give apprenticeships to youngsters who might not otherwise have a chance.

He knows from meeting and training these youngsters that not everyone is blessed with the kind of good start in life that his parents gave him. Credit is due, too, for his bid to make school meals healthier and more appetising, and for backing free school dinners.

For all that, his praise of hard working migrants over "wet behind the ears" British workers is so meat and two veg simplistic it sticks in the craw. It clearly serves his needs to employ migrant workers. It serves the needs of many other employers as well. And it is extremely handy for the Coalition Government besides.

You will be wearily familiar with the narrative by now. It goes like this. There are jobs out there - look at all the foreign workers in them. The Brits, though, are too lazy, too spoiled on welfare to take them, so why not cut their benefits and drive them into low wage, low skilled unemployment?

A recent report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Develop­ment (CIPD) looked at the trend for employers to take on migrant workers over UK-born ones. While there was not enough evidence to show migrant workers were being overtly favoured, the CIPD study picked up a perception among employers that EU migrant workers were better in terms of skills and work ethic (that is, they would be more willing to work anti-social hours).

But in taking on migrant workers, employers were depriving younger British workers of the kind of low-skilled, entry level jobs that had traditionally given them a start in the workplace. This was not only bad for them it was bad for business, too, making it harder to keep the flow of skilled workers coming and to plan long term.

In short, once the supply of migrant workers dries up, and it will one day, UK plc could find itself in schtuck.

The dream of many, if not most, migrant workers is to acquire skills, earn money, and get the first plane or train home again. How supremely arrogant to imagine they can think of no better place to live than here.

Strangely enough, the dream of many UK-born workers is also to acquire skills, earn money, and go home to see their families of an evening. Making it a race for the bottom - who will work for less pay, who will work more unsocial hours - serves the interests of greedy employers and governments keen to cut the benefits of the already poor and vulnerable, but it does no-one else any favours.

As for a 48-hour working week being namby-pamby, try telling that to a cleaner or construction worker, or anyone else on a pay scale that means they cannot afford to eat in your restaurants.

Mr Oliver has earned a good living from his abilities and his willingness to work hard. Plenty of young people would like similar chances to show what they can do. Too bad he wants to write so many of them off before they have even turned the gas on.

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