Female migrant workers and the minimum wage

Report from the TUC of new research from COMPAS:

New TUC research published today (Monday 11 Aug 08) reveals that female migrant workers may be more likely than any other group to be paid less than the national minimum wage (NMW).

Reports of the abuse of migrant workers have become increasingly common and the research – commissioned by the TUC’s Commission on Vulnerable Employment and carried out by the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford – aimed to investigate the available information to uncover the reality of working life for migrant workers.

COMPAS reviewed the pay, working hours, type of work and accommodation of recent migrant workers who have been living and working in the UK for less than 10 years, in the West Midlands and in the East of England/East Midlands (both areas where there has been high levels of recent migration). National information about migrant workers, such as the Government’s Labour Force Survey (LFS), was also included in the report.

The report found that migrant workers were much more likely to experience problems at work, and highlighted a number of worrying trends:

  • Recent migrants work longer hours per week than most other workers – for example 55 per cent of recent migrants work 31-48 hours per week, and 15.4 per cent work more than 48 hours per week, compared to 48.3 per cent and 13 per cent of workers generally.
  • Migrant workers are more likely to be working as temps or in insecure work (for example not having a written contract) than any other workers.
  • Recent migrant workers are more than twice as likely as other workers to be earning less than the appropriate NMW for their age.
  • Women who are recent migrants to the UK are 1.5 times more likely than male migrant workers to be paid less than the NMW.
  • Women who migrate to work in the UK therefore face a disproportionate risk of being illegally underpaid – with around 35,000 denied the NMW.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

‘The rogue employers who underpay the NMW deserve zero tolerance. The NMW is making a real difference to the lives of many low paid migrant workers, and we must continue to crack down on those mean bosses not paying their staff the legal wage to which they are entitled.

‘The TUC’s Commission on Vulnerable Employment heard many complaints from migrant workers, including excessively long hours, no contract and a complete lack of health and safety training.

‘Belonging to a trade union is the best form of defence a worker can have against exploitative bosses. UK unions are stepping up their efforts to organise migrant workers to stop employers from using a poor grasp of English or ignorance of UK employment law as an excuse to treat people badly.’


Demonstration at High Court for Southall Black Sisters

Demonstration 17th and 18th July 2008.
From 9.30am onwards at the High Court on the Strand, London

This is no longer simply about the funding of SBS. The case represents a key moment for the third sector.

Many of you are already aware that SBS has been locked in struggle against Ealing Council with regard to its decision to withdraw funding for our domestic violence services for black and minority women. On 17th and 18th July 2008, the High Court will hear a challenge brought by our users against Ealing Council for its failure to have proper regard to existing equality legislation, especially the Race Relations Act, in reaching its decision on our funding. The Council will seek to justify its decision on the grounds that a generic domestic violence service will be better placed to meet requirements of the equality legislation and the so called ‘cohesion’ agenda.

Equality, Cohesion and the Right to Self Organisation

This is no longer simply about the funding of SBS. The case represents a key moment for the third sector. In one of the first challenges of its kind, the Council will be required to account for the way in which the confused and contradictory ‘cohesion’ agenda is being cynically used to cut essential life saving services to black and minority women in particular.

Specialist services likes ours are needed, not only for reasons to do with language difficulties and culture pressures, but also because we have considerable experience in providing advice and advocacy in complex circumstances where legal aid is no longer easily available and where immigration and asylum difficulties make some women much more vulnerable than others. In addition, we will seek to challenge the Council for its failure to take account of how and why groups like SBS, were set up in the first place: to challenge racism and gender inequality as well as religious, caste and ethnic divisions within our communities.

The Council has made much of the need to reflect the racial diversity of Ealing (meaning the white majority population) in the interests of ‘cohesion’. In the process it seeks to argue that the very existence of specialist groups like SBS is unlawful under the Race Relations Act!

Ealing Council has also withdrawn funding for key refugee and race equality projects in Ealing. This approach is not unique to Ealing. Evidence from around the UK suggests that organisations in the firing line tend to be the more progressive black and minority and feminist projects. At the same time, reactionary, sometimes fundamentalist religious organisations are being given financial support to provide ‘welfare services’, even at the risk of undermining the human rights of the most vulnerable in our communities. The subcontracting of third sector services is also contributing to the decimation of groups like SBS. What this demonstrates is a political attack on the notion of positive action and on the right to self organisation underpinned by secular, anti-racist and progressive values.

Our Tradition: Struggle not Submission

These are immensely worrying developments for all those concerned about the threat to progressive notions of equality and justice. We therefore urge you to join our demonstration on the 17th and 18th July at the High Court on the Strand. Nearest Tube Holborn (Circle & Piccadilly Line) or Temple (District & Circle Line). Please bring musical instruments, whistles and banners.

For further details contact SBS 0208 571 9595
Email: Southallblacksisters@btconnect.com

Migrant domestic workers at risk: new report

Oxfam GB press release:

New research reveals abuse and exploitation of migrant domestic workers in the UK

New research published today by Oxfam and partner organisation Kalayaan reveals the extreme vulnerability of migrant domestic workers in the UK. Migrant domestic workers come to Britain with their employers from overseas to work in their homes; the majority of them are poor women from developing countries.

The New Bonded Labour? report reveals that some migrant domestic workers are sexually and physically abused by their employers in the UK and many are exploited and badly treated.

Migrant domestic workers have the legal status of workers in the UK – and are entitled to rights such as the minimum wage, time off, etc. Yet, of more than 300 workers registered with Kalayaan in 2006, 43% of workers reported not being given their own bed, 41% were not given regular meals, 70% were given no time off, 61% were not allowed out of the house without their employer’s permission. In addition, 10% reported sexual abuse, 26% physical abuse and 72% psychological abuse at the hands of their employers. Many workers were paid as little as 50p an hour, were made to work up to 16 hours a day, and were on constant call to their employers.

Last week, the Home Office dropped proposed visa changes which would tie domestic workers to one employer – a move welcomed by Oxfam and Kalayaan who had warned that the changes would encourage ‘bonded labour’ in the UK. But despite this positive development, migrant domestic workers remain extremely vulnerable.

Kate Wareing, Oxfam UK Poverty Director said:

“Our report reveals that migrant domestic workers come from some of the poorest countries in the world to become some of the most vulnerable and exploited people in the UK. It is vital they retain they right to change employer beyond the two-year period that the government has just promised. And we urge the government to take further steps to protect domestic workers by increasing awareness about both their vulnerability and their legal rights among the police, health service workers, immigration and embassy officials, and other agencies who work with them.”

Kate Roberts of Kalayaan said:

“Our research details the horrific levels of abuse of migrant domestic workers in private households in the UK, despite their legal rights. ‘Jenny’ was beaten by her employer over three years and eventually had to run away with the help of a neighbour. ‘Mary’ is now blind in one eye since her employer threw hot tea at her. The stories of these workers are unfortunately not unusual. In addition to the government’s welcomed commitment to retain the domestic worker visa, additional action must be taken against abusive employers who break the law – and more support provided for domestic workers.”

For more information, see the Oxfam web pages>>>

or BBC news website report>>>

and here to download the full report pdf The New Bonded Labour?>>>

No safety net for women – protest

23 April 08

Hundreds of women protested outside Parliament today to bring attention to the immigration law that provides “no safety net to vulnerable women”.

source: 24dash.com

Southall Black Sisters, human rights groups and other organisations from around the country began the day with a silent protest outside Portcullis House wearing masks and black clothes to expose the injustice of women who are turned away from their local authority because of the no recourse to funds requirement.

The demonstration follows a series of reports on the rule that prevents women who have travelled to the UK legally, with a work, spousal or student visa, from accessing state benefits or social housing if they experience violence or abuse by their partners.

It was followed by a public meeting in Portcullis House to lobby the Government to provide an exemption in the rule to ensure women are not forced to return to their abuser.

Pragna Patel, of Southall Black Sisters, said: “The situation affecting these women is horrific. It is unacceptable that the Government’s policies and measures to protect all women from violence do not reach this category of women.”

Members of parliament have also joined the campaign to demand that something be done to address the suffering experienced by women with no recourse.

Hornsey and Wood Green MP, Lynne Featherstone, of the Liberal Democrats, said: “With no real or secure support from the Government, these women face a bleak choice between destitution or continued dependence on their abuser. The devil and the deep blue sea doesn’t quite describe what a grim choice this is.”

Shadow Minister for Women and Maidenhead MP Theresa May added: “The issue of the no recourse to public funds requirement is continually raised by organisations that I meet as a barrier preventing them from providing necessary help to vulnerable women.

“I will be looking at the Government’s proposals to examine whether they will provide a workable solution to this problem.”

more: A cause well worth funding

Women’s charities woefully under-funded, warns report

Women with ‘no recourse to public funds’ Resource Pack

Southall Black Sisters

How Can I Support Her?

Domestic Violence, immigration and women with no recourse to public funds’ Resource Pack

How Can I Support Her? Domestic Violence, immigration and women with no recourse to public funds’ Resource Pack
This resource pack for voluntary and community organisations gives comprehensive information for voluntary and community organisations supporting women with insecure immigration status who are experiencing domestic violence.It covers how to make applications under the Domestic Violence Rule, information on other immigration and asylum procedures, and details of financial support that women may be eligible for.
Download a copy of How Can I Support Her? Domestic Violence, immigration and women with no recourse to public funds’ Resource Pack
Order Form: How Can I Support Her? Domestic Violence, immigration and women with no recourse to public funds’ Resource Pack.

No Recourse Campaign Leaflet (A4)

This campaign brings together key women’s organisations to highlight the devastating impact of the ‘no recourse’ requirement on the lives of minority women without secure immigration status who are subject to domestic violence.

No Recourse Campaign Leaflet
Download a copy of the No Recourse leaflet publicising the campaign, which also shows ways to support the campaign.

Who are SBS?

Southall Black Sisters, a not-for-profit organisation, was established in 1979 to meet the needs of black (Asian and African-Caribbean) women. Our aims are to highlight and challenge violence against women; empower them to gain more control over their lives; live without fear of violence; and assert their human rights to justice, equality and freedom. For more than two decades we have been at the forefront of challenging domestic and gender violence locally and nationally, and campaigning for the provision of support services to enable women and their children to escape violent relationships.

We manage a resource centre in West London that provides a comprehensive service to women experiencing violence and abuse. We offer specialist advice, information, casework, advocacy, counselling and self-help support services in several community languages. We are managed by a group of women with long experience of women’s struggles and commitment to women’s rights.


On 18th July 2008 at the High Court, Southall Black Sisters (SBS) won an important legal challenge affirming its right to exist and continue its work.

‘There is no dichotomy between funding specialist services and cohesion; equality is necessary for cohesion to be achieved.’ Lord Justice Moses

On 18 July at the High Court, in a dramatic turn of events, Ealing Council withdrew their case after one and a half days of a hearing which saw their defence rapidly unravelling. From the outset, it became apparent to the presiding judge, Lord Justice Moses and to all those present in the courtroom including the packed public gallery, that Ealing Council was skating on really thin ice in attempting to justify its decision to cut funding to SBS and to commission instead one generic borough wide service on domestic violence on the grounds of ‘equality’ and ‘cohesion’.

When we began the process of challenging Ealing Council exactly one year ago, we were not sure where our journey would lead us. We received tremendous support from our users and many, many other individuals and organisations along the way. It is impossible to list everyone who supported us but we really would not have come this far without such encouragement and support. Above all, the support that we received reminded us of our responsibility in building a civil society based on the principles of justice, equality and humanity. We thank you all for making this victory possible.

read more at Southal Black Sisters website

And in Defending secular spaces, Pragna Patel writes the New Statesman:

In the rush to be tolerant or sensitive to religious difference, the space is created for the most reactionary and even fundamentalist religious leaders to take control. more…