Eastern European migrants working on the construction of a £600m NHS hospital have been taking home as little as £8.80 for a 39-hour week, the Guardian has learned, in what has been described by union bosses as one of the worst instances of employee abuse in the building sector since EU enlargement.
The group of around 12 men, most of whom are Lithuanian, are construction workers on the government-backed PFI project in Nottinghamshire. Though allegations of abuse of migrants’ rights on construction sites are widespread across the country the scale in this instance has shocked unions and politicians.
Michael Clapham, MP for Barnsley West and Penistone, who is due to raise the matter in parliament today, said: "This happened on a government project where there are good rules and a strong union – who knows what is happening on the hundreds of smaller sites around the UK?"
According to industry guidelines and an agreement between unions and the building firm Skanska, which is overseeing the project, workers on the site should have been earning more than £7 an hour. But after deductions for rent, tool hire and utility bills, some of the Lithuanian employees were receiving so little observers say it left them virtually destitute.
Horrors, right? Vile exploitation? And we all know that people only read the first few paragraphs of a news story anyway.
So, this meme will escape into the conversation and will become one of those unimpeachable facts. People being screwed over and working for only £8.80 a week. Expect to see it all over CiF soon enough. Maybe even in a column or two.
However, it’s the next sentence which is the important one:
Payslips seen by the Guardian show that one man worked a 39-hour week and took home just £8.80 after his entire monthly rent was deducted in one week, in breach of the law.
Ahh…..paying some 25% of your wages for housing, well, umm, isn’t that actually about the national average? Or below it even?
Sure, it’s a little stupid, possibly even malevolent on the part of the employer to take a month’s rent out of a week’s paycheque, but it’s not really quite the same as being paid £8.80 a week, is it?
After a 39-hour week, one man took home £8.80 when his monthly rent of £155 was deducted in one week.
So his monthly income is (assuming a four week month) £655.20, with a £155 rent payment, so a £125.05 average nett weekly income after housing costs. No, I wouldn’t want to work for that either, but it is very different indeed from £8.80, isn’t it?
But just watch this meme spread.