The TUC held an event in April at Congress House to showcase the work that took place during the TUC Migration Messaging project. The project set out to promote progressive messages at the community level by forming local groups in three pilot areas: Corby, Manchester and Southampton. At the showcase event, members of these local groups presented the activities they had run to promote these progressives messages to an audience of trade unions, migrants’ rights groups, think tanks and other groups.
The event was opened by Owen Tudor (TUC). He said the TUC had been running the project for the last year to promote trade union messages on migration which emphasise equality, solidarity and workers’ rights. Anti-migration rhetoric needs to be challenged by unions as it scapegoats migrants for problems such as lack of decent jobs, low wages and services that are due to bad bosses and austerity.
Rosa Crawford (TUC) presented the aims of the project which was developed in partnership with Hope not hate and Migrant Voice:
Members of the Southampton campaign group, Stephen Press (Third Age Centre) and Kelly Tomlinson (Unite Community) presented how their group decided that progressive messages on migration would be most effectively promoted in campaign materials and press for a campaign against the screening of Channel 4’s controversial documentary ‘Immigration Street’. The campaign group developed campaign messages which emphasised solidarity and the need to tackle bad employers and austerity, not scapegoat migrants for problems in the community. The group promoted these messages through local meetings, press articles and a protest in January outside Channel 4 headquarters in London. At this demonstration, a petition which called on Channel 4 to cancel the screening of ‘Immigration Street’ that had gathered over 1700 local signatures was handed in. The progressive messages on migration promoted as part of the campaign gained national and local media coverage, including in The Daily Mirror, The Huffington Post, ITV and BBC News. The group plan to continue campaigning on issues affecting workers and local residents in Southampton.
Sandra P Rice (Migrant Supporting Migrants) presented the work her organisation had done as part of the Manchester group to develop media stories which showed how both local and migrant workers were facing exploitation at work. The group collected case studies of poor treatment at work such as unfair dismissal, precarious contracts and inadequate health and safety standards at work that migrant and local workers had suffered. These case studies were being used to write stories on the importance of trade unions and employment regulation to protect all workers from exploitation. These stories were then promoted through events and the online networks of Migrants Supporting Migrants. The group plan to continue gathering case studies to promote to the regional media to gain wider awareness of these messages.
Tanya Warlock (TUC) informed the meeting that the Corby campaign group decided that progressive messages around migration would be effectively promoted through a film about the central role employment regulations and collective agreements between employers and unions play in tackling exploitation and undercutting.
The group developed the film ‘Fairness at work: Lessons from Corby’ which was premiered at the event.
The film focuses on the high level of agency employment in Corby in which many migrants are employed that has been associated with poor treatment and low pay. The film profiles the Employment Agencies Forum Code of Conduct which Corby’s MP Andy Sawford created with the leader of Corby Council Tom Beattie, as well as local employers, unions and voluntary sector groups. The Code commits those who sign it to avoid replacing permanent jobs with temporary employment and make sure the rights of agency workers are respected. The film features a local employer, RS Components that has signed the Code and has been working with the union Usdaw to ensure decent treatment of migrant and local workers.
Tom Beattie has been an active member of the Corby campaign group and spoke at the event about the plans by the campaign group to organise screening events of the film in Corby for local businesses, unions and community groups. (Here is a link to a shorter version of the film).
The TUC worked with Migrant Voice in the project to run media and advocacy workshops for the groups in Corby, Manchester and Southampton.
At the event there was a screening of a short video of the workshops which was followed by a presentation from Nazek Ramadan, Director and Anne Stoltenberg Project Manager at Migrant Voice on their involvement in the project and how the video could be used as a campaign tool for unions to use in local community campaigns around promoting positive messages on migration.
The event closed with a discussion chaired by Wilf Sullivan (TUC) on the ways unions would continue to promote progressive messages on migration, working with communities, and how the successes of the project could be replicated in other areas
The TUC will share the lessons learnt from the project with unions, regional councils and allies through a booklet entitled ‘Connecting communities building alliances - Migration Messaging Project’ (attached) in order to encourage similar community based campaigns of this nature in the future.
In order to continue discussions around how unions can continue to work with other organisations to promote messages at community level in the future, TUC Education has produced a new learning module about migration and the role unions play in promoting fair working conditions for all – see here for more information.
The TUC will continue to campaign to promote progressive messages on migration– to keep up to date with our work check our website at: www.tuc.org.uk/migration ; our Facebook pages at www.facebook.com/TUCmigrationcampaign and our blogs Stronger Unions http://strongerunions.org/?s=migration and Touchstone at http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/?s=migration