Hsiao-Hung Pai

Migrant workers and British hospitality

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"If you don't know who employs you, you can lose your job at any time," said a Polish hotel worker. "I feel this insecurity about my future in England. There are no rules here."

The insecurity is well founded. "During the eight months I worked I never knew whether I'd get paid, but I also had no idea who I was really working for and to whom I should complain when I'm not paid," said another Polish worker living in the south of England.

Companies use labour providers who subcontract to smaller agencies set up to act as front shops. These can then be folded up at any minute to avoid inspection. When wages are left unpaid, the agencies simply lay the blame with their parent companies.

Good Things Don't Come to Those Who Wait - in Chinatown

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"We don't get paid wages here," said a waiter at Chinatown's Furama Restaurant. "We only have tips of around £200 a week. The service charge goes to the employer. We don't get a penny."

This testimony is not an anomaly. Catering and hotel employers are making their own rules and there is no legal basis from which to challenge them.

The practices of one catering company, Green Events Ltd, provide a useful example. Prior to January waiters were paid £6.25 per hour plus 10 percent service charge. Under the new system, however, they are paid just;£4.25 per hour. Their employer uses the service charge to meet the minimum wage.

Domestic Abuse

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New government plans will remove the already pitiful rights of some of the most vulnerable migrant workers in Britain. Investigative journalist Hsiao-Hung Pai talks to the women who have travelled across the globe to look after the homes and children of the rich

Mary's employers refused to allow her to visit her Sri Lankan home despite her two years of constant service. The family she worked for would not give Mary - their domestic worker - just two weeks off in exchange for her 24-hour live-in labour, providing personal care and housekeeping duties. Instead she was rewarded with starvation, and forced to sleep in the sitting room.

Forced Migration

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Review of "Refugees in a Global Era", Philip Marfleet, Pagrave Macmillan £19.99

Philip Marfleet goes to the heart of the asylum debate in his new book, Refugees in a Global Era. He uncovers the contradictions in contemporary capitalism that have forced migration. His analysis allows readers to "think the unthinkable", to see beyond the prejudices in mainstream thinking on the subject.

Looking at the bitter reality of displacement experienced by millions of people worldwide and the tragedy of lives lost in forced migration, we cannot help but question globalisation and its implications for this enormous involuntary movement of people.


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