Polish workers 'strike', donate blood in UK immigration protest

Migrants in UK divided over campaign to challenge British attitudes on immigration

Polish workers 'strike', donate blood in UK immigration protest

World Bulletin / News Desk

Hundreds of Polish workers living in Great Britain are to down tools on Thursday in an unofficial strike to protest against what they say are negative attitudes towards them in the U.K.

The migrants say they want to highlight their value to the British economy and fight a popular perception of Poles as a nation arriving to exploit the U.K.’s welfare system.

The strike, which is not backed by a labor union, will see hundreds of Poles join a demonstration outside the British parliament.

However, other migrants – unconvinced about how effective the action will be, have opted to donate blood, a symbolic reminder of Polish sacrifices made during the Second World War.

Tomasz Kowalski, editor of the migrant-run Polish Express newspaper, said the idea for a demonstration originally came from comments made by readers on their website.

“There were some politicians in the past claiming that Polish people came to the U.K. to milk the benefits system. There were so many comments about this article,” he told Anadolu Agency.

“And in one of the comments the [Polish] reader was saying: 'We should do something’ about it rather than complaining. Maybe it’s a good idea to have a strike.'”

There is “something wrong” in relations between Poles and Britain, Kowalski said, blaming a populist view purportedly fed by some politicians and newspapers that migrants simply wanted to claim benefit payments from the state.

“Statistics show that Poles in the U.K. are the best workers. They want to work, not [receive] benefits. There are too many lies about this in the media and politics.

“In my opinion; it’s enough, we have had enough. We are just ordinary people [and] also EU citizens. We have the right to be here and work here,” Kowalski says.

Benefits are contentious in the U.K. The Conservative Party government announced its desire to cut £12 billion [$19 billion] from the country’s welfare bill after winning last May’s general election.

The government says this reduction is vital to ensure the national budget is balanced by 2018, but critics say as many as 13 million families will be affected by the measures.

For Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance think-tank – which campaigns for lower taxes and a smaller state – the government’s plans will encourage migrants to work.

“The welfare system needs to encourage work, no matter whether an individual is from Poland, Portugal, Panama or the United Kingdom.

“That means sharpening the incentives to work, by ensuring work pays. Britain's benefit system is more generous than others in Europe, and changing that should encourage people to get on to the job ladder,” he says.

However, Thursday’s Polish ‘strike’ does not enjoy universal support. Tadeusz Stenzel, chairman of the Federation of Poles in Great Britain, said the action would do more harm than good.

“I believe that this call for an ‘unofficial strike’ is unlikely to threaten U.K. citizens in any way and has not secured the support of the majority of Poles living and working in the U.K.,” he says.

“We see this strike as an irresponsible and divisive way of presenting arguments in the immigration debate. Whilst we appreciate the concerns and frustrations of some migrant workers, we believe that any strike would do more harm than good to address these issues.”

Some opponents who oppose the demonstration have turned to an alternative: the #PolishBlood campaign on Twitter, designed to remind Britons of the thousands of Poles who fought for the British forces during the Second World War.

Thousands of Polish migrants have taken to social media in the past week to declare they will make a blood donation as an alternative form of protest.

Official figures show there are around 680,000 Poles living in the U.K., one of the largest migrant groups in the country.

Around six million of the U.K.’s workers were born abroad, according to an Oxford University Migration Observatory study.

The same study found that more than a third of textiles workers, a quarter of employees in large superstores and nearly 40% of nurses in the country came from abroad.

A separate investigation by economists at University College London last year found that between 2000 and 2011 European migrants to the U.K. paid out £20 billion more in taxes than they received in social benefits.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Ağustos 2015, 13:36