It’s difficult to know where to start with this. The bare facts, as reported by the BBC website, are that an eighty-year old woman was left without food, water, or medication for nine days after the company responsible for her care was raided and shut down by the UK Border Agency. Sadly, she later died in hospital. The agency, it seems, had been illegally employing folks without papers, although I don’t think that much has been officially confirmed. There are so many things about this tragedy that make me angry. First off, care work is one of the most poorly paid jobs going. A 2010 report by the Low Pay Commission found that 9% of care workers were paid less than the minimum wage. Many were not being reimbursed for their travel costs. No surprise there, as caring has been – and still is – associated with women, and what has traditionally been considered ‘women’s work’ is always more poorly paid than traditionally masculine roles, no matter how important it may be. In addition, few care workers are union members, and as private companies have taken over – and made to compete for – the provision of care, this has led to reduced pay and poorer working conditions. Second, migrants without papers are one of the most easily exploited groups of people – lacking any official means to support themselves, they have to take any work they are offered, and their illegal status means that they have no power over their pay or working conditions. They cannot join a union to fight for a better deal, and they cannot complain if their jobs fail to meet the legally required standards. Third, the existence of such a vulnerable group of people, living in the shadows of our society, makes it harder for those with papers. Their pay and working conditions are driven down by the exploitation of illegal migrants, and they must now compete for work with people who can be paid less, made to work longer hours, and so on – people whom, from a certain perspective, it makes more sense to employ. And there we have it: a matrix of oppression, which leads to the various sufferings of care workers, folks without papers, and those who require care.
ageing / disability / gender inequality / global justice / health / hostile workplace / immigration / work