The first hustings I participated in last week was arranged by Waltham Forest Trades Council (WFTC) and the Parish of Walthamstow. You can see how we candidates got on via the Occupy London webstream – http://occupylondon.org.uk/walthamstow-ge2015-hustings/
Before the hustings began, Dave Knight from WF Trades Council gave a moving dedication to Romanian worker, Marian Nemit, who died in a construction accident in Leyton recently (http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/wfnews/12909507.Picture_of_tragic_builder_released_as_reports_suggest_family_learned_of_death_on_social_media/).
I want to express my condolences to Marian’s family and friends in Romania and the UK.
There is a sizeable Romanian community in Walthamstow, many of whom I have spoken to during my campaigning. They are unable to vote in this particular election. They can vote in the local borough Council, London Assembly and EU elections, but not the Parliamentary elections. However, I have wanted to talk to them because the migrant worker population in Walthamstow is an important part of our local society and I want to spend time understanding their situation and needs. I want them to know, as well, I would care about their concerns as well as people voting for me.
My experience is that the local Romanian community, along with the Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Moravian and other East European populations here, are incredibly hard working and contribute to the vibrancy and economy of Walthamstow.
The reality is that migrant work is badly taken advantage of. East European and other migrants often get paid less than minimum wage, often on zero-hours contracts, endure appalling working conditions which defy any basic standards of health & safety, and face extraordinary levels of racial abuse. Frequently, they have to live in horrendous housing conditions and struggle to make ends meet, despite working all hours.
I have met some of the homeless migrants in the area; gentle, thoughtful, hard-working. They are too proud to take handouts or rely on benefits. They simply want to make a living for themselves, and contribute, away from the corruption and oppression of their home countries.
Waves of immigration going back over centuries have enriched the UK. We need migrants workers to succeed in their lives in the UK, to be able to contribute more to society, both economically and culturally.
Migrant workers must be paid the London Living wage when working and living here, and their work conditions should more than meet basic HSE and employment law requirements. Otherwise, all that happens is that UK domestic workers’ pay and conditions are undermined, stopping them from contributing to the economy and forcing them to become reliant on the state for assistance.
It benefits no one to mistreat or underpay migrants. If elected, I would make supporting our local migrant populations a key focus of my work, and building social cohesion across Walthamstow to develop understanding and acceptance of each other’s cultures within the area.
Today is Workers Memorial Day and I want to pay tribute to those who work tirelessly to improve working pay and conditions through trades unions and workers associations, particularly Waltham Forest Trades Council.