The Shadow Home Secretary (and Opposition Leader in waiting) Yvette Cooper appeared on BBC2’s, Newsnight yesterday evening and took the opportunity to pretty much blame the whole immigration issue on Recruitment Agencies. You can watch the programme here.
Apparently the only reason we have such a heated debate and what many see as a major issue on the subject of low skilled migrant workers is because Recruitment Agencies have effectively spent years luring low skilled eastern European migrants to the UK by:
- Advertising jobs that don’t exist to lure these people here
- Undercutting wages in the low skilled sector and using these people to achieve this aim
- Exploiting low skilled migrant workers to destabilise the job market
She also did in her opening statement blame employers for most of the above as well. Now first of all let’s just clear a few things up. Yvette Cooper obviously doesn’t know the difference between a Recruitment Agency and a Recruitment Business. This is quite an important definition, especially in this context. The Government’s own interpretation can be found here but I’ll save you the time by cutting and pasting the definitions for you. I hasten to add that these definitions are from the past Labour Governments very own invasive and pretty ineffective interference during their last escapades in power:
Employment agencies find work for work-seekers who are employed and paid by employers. This is often called ‘permanent employment’ because once the worker has been taken on, they’re an employee of the company they’re working for.
Employment businesses engages a work-seeker under a contract who then works under the supervision of someone else. This is normally called ‘temporary agency work’ or ‘temping’.
Workers under these arrangements are paid by the business instead of the company they’re supplied to.
Recruitment Agencies Point
Now first of all I’m pretty confident that Yvette Cooper has either confused the two variations or just decided to lump the whole industry in together during her direct and entirely unfounded attack on the industry. I can see absolutely no commercial value to be had in an Employment Agency (permanent placements) either advertising jobs that don’t exist, bringing low skilled workers from overseas for jobs that don’t exist or even to be frank being in the market for permanent low skilled / unskilled jobs that don’t exist. Can you? Please someone feel free to enlighten me on this matter. I can however see exceptional commercial, economic and practical social reasons for an Employment Agency to bring into the UK skilled workers from the engineering, medical, research, science, technology and other similar sectors. It makes perfect sense to me for the NHS or Technical and Engineering sectors to use Employment Agencies to find and source skill sets that are in significant shortage in the UK. In fact our health service is a clear indication of the significant importance of this activity, as are many of our major engineering and technology firms.
I am therefore confident in my conclusion that Yvette Cooper was actually referring to Recruitment Businesses. But what’s in a definition when you are slandering a whole industry? Hey whilst we are at it let’s put Ballet into the same bracket as a lap dancing bar. They both feature women and are both a form of entertainment after all.
Recruitment Businesses Point
Recruitment Businesses have on a daily basis almost 1,000,000 workers engaged. That is pretty significant. There are some truly tremendous recruitment companies out there providing an incredibly important service to both employers and job seekers in almost every conceivable type of industry and job from street cleaners to temporary Financial Directors. 99.9999% of them operate legally and with a high degree of integrity and professionalism. This is easily verified by simply searching for the number of prosecutions of malpractice or similar.
But of course there have been and still are some unscrupulous Recruitment Businesses who would go to great lengths to bring in low skilled migrant workers for jobs in agriculture, logistics and distribution and the service industry. We heard only this week how one of the UK’s largest food service companies Greencore who make sandwiches for retailers such as Tesco has had to innovate and develop a plan to recruit possibly 300 low skilled employees from Hungary for a new factory in Northampton – article here simply because despite numerous initiatives in the UK they simply cannot find the staff locally. Despite there being over 8,000 unemployed people in Northampton.
Now I know it really isn’t that straightforward and there is a significant debate here about the minimum wage and so forth. But the Government set the minimum wage, if it is too low to sustain the average entry level or low skilled job seeker then raise it and surely some proportion of that 8,000 unemployed in Northampton will be attracted to Greencore. Create incentives that offset the increase in the minimum wage with the savings in social benefit payments. Is this really such a complex challenge? By doing so the business of attracting low skilled migrants to this country for low skilled jobs (many of which according to Yvette Cooper don’t actually exist) and undercutting wages and undermining the job market wouldn’t have any valid commercial value would it? Recruitment Businesses would still be required for seasonal variations and to provide temporary cover for sickness, growth and similar. Our entire logistics and distribution network and all the associated businesses from the postal service to drinks manufactures would grind to a shuddering halt in the run up to Xmas without these services.
So the real issue here is the failure to police rogue recruitment ‘businesses’ properly. Isn’t it?
The Labour Delusion
What Yvette Cooper conveniently overlooks is that it was her Government who completely overhauled the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Regulations 2003. This invasive piece of wholesale legislation which proved to be pretty ineffective and became an administrative nightmare for the vast majority of ethical recruitment businesses was essentially geared specifically to stop exploitation, it made it illegal to advertise jobs that didn’t exist (Yvette), it came down hard on gang-masters and recruitment businesses who flouted these regulations. It didn’t really. What it really did was stop some rather questionable practices in the modelling and entertainment industry.
Yvette Cooper also overlooks the fact that it was their ineffective approach to mass migration and their benefit hand out culture which led to this current situation where we have the largest ever number of school-leavers attending an immense network of Further Education facilities until the age of 18, many of which demonstrate no intellectual or even personal aptitude and capacity for further education and should by rights be starting out their lives like most people used to do back in the days of industry and manufacturing at the bottom, making sandwiches and aspiring to be a team leader, a manager and onwards to becoming a Managing Director or entrepreneur and so forth. Now they leave FE after 2 years with an NVQ as a Nail Technician or in Digital Media or Design and they won’t even consider a low skilled job paying minimum wage. Order picking in a warehouse or stacking shelves in Tesco’s is beneath them. So here we go again, in come the low skilled migrant workers.
Essentially what Yvette Cooper needs to understand is that a business can only supply a service if there is a demand for that service. Accusing the service providers of being the cause is ridiculous from any perspective but a Labour perspective wanting to shift blame as always onto someone else.
To blame this in such an openly vindictive manner on employers and employment businesses, not Employment Agencies (that’s right Yvette, spot the difference) is nothing short of libellous. But to be frank I’m delighted to see that Yvette Cooper offers no threat, she has a profound ability to demonstrate utter ignorance and incompetence. Once she becomes the Leader of the Opposition she will continue in the legacy left behind by her predecessors Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband. A legacy that has seeped into the British mind-set whereby nothing is their fault and someone else is or was always to blame for their own short-comings and failings.
In writing this post emotions as have run high. As any of my followers will know I am extremely proud, passionate and protective of my industry. An industry which has provided me with an amazing career, experiences and opportunities.
As such there may be errors in my write up, my personal and political opinions may be evident. But I wear my heart on my sleeve and write what I believe to be correct. But please do feel free to comment and critique or correct any aspect which you feel I may have misrepresented or misunderstood. I am after all merely a recruiter and not a correspondent or columnist.
If you agree with or even just like my post, please do click the ‘Like’ button, that way it gets shared around and gets read by more people.