Letters: British jobs and British workers

Pay better wages if you want British workers

Saturday 27 February 2010 01:00

British workers did not acquit themselves well in Evan Davis's "experiment" (The Day the Immigrants Left, reviewed 25 February). The conclusions drawn were those which are commonly expressed in the argument about the economic pros and cons of immigrant workers; principally that British workers are not prepared to do these menial/boring/dirty/ hard jobs, and/or are no good at doing them, and employers have no option but to hire immigrant labour.

I suggest that the main reason for the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the indigenous population is the low wages on offer. The reason the wages are low is that immigrant workers will accept them: they have different lifestyles and different expectations from those of the British workers. Pay more money, and the locals may be motivated to apply and, once employed, to perform sufficiently well to keep the jobs.

But paying higher wages means higher prices for the product, and this we are not prepared to do, as a nation. We treasure foreign nurses in the NHS, and advocates of immigration assert that the NHS could not function without them. But the reality is that the NHS would function no worse but would cost more without them, because nurses' salaries would have to rise to attract applicants from the UK.

If there was no readily available pool of immigrant labour to draw upon there would, at least in the short term, be no alternative but to employ British labour and accept the higher wage bill. The present immigration rules, however, provide that pool of foreign workers. Employers are bound to make use of it or risk going out of business because their prices become uncompetitive.

To say that the economy depends on immigrant workers to do the jobs that native-born men and women will not is disingenuous. Rather we are unwilling to pay the premium for British waiters, fruit-pickers, cleaners etc. We would rather grumble about lax immigration policy and blame it for the overcrowding of our cities, overloading of our infrastructure, loss of national identity and so on, and deplore the lack of work ethic displayed by British workers.

Immigrant workers play an important role in our economy, but it is our unwillingness as consumers and taxpayers to support higher wages that makes their contribution essential.

David Whitaker

Wokingham, Berkshire

Brown insincere on voting reform

Gordon Brown claims he "must stand up for the many not the few" (Podium, 22 February). How can he reconcile this wish with his recent attempt to rule out true reform of the voting system?

His pursuance of the "Alternative Vote" option is no more than a small step in the right direction and nowhere near the introduction of proportional representation, the outcome most informed voters would deem to be fair.

Brown's strategy is to give the wider electorate a well-spun AV option as a "reasonable compromise" reform. Job done: the issue of PR is in the long grass for another generation.

Councillor Bob Gledhill

Green Party, Norwich City Council

The pollsters and others are now speculating on the possibility of a hung parliament as if this was a bad thing and likely to make our recovery from recession harder and our international credibility lower. But at the same time we are conscious that although most politicians are in disrepute, some from all main parties are demonstrating a sound knowledge of their subject.

Given that the economic crisis is probably worse than we have been told so far, is it time we made use of the skills of politicians of every political party to form a government as we did to protect our nation through the Second World War? There is a world of difference between a national government in conjunction with a largely un-whipped Parliament, and the unedifying scramble for minor -party votes by minority-government managers.

Peter Valentine

Oadby, Leicestershire

Your editorial view (22 February) that the election must be about policies and not personalities strikes rather a confusing note. As it happens, I agree but isn't it the media that is making it more about personalities? Whose idea was the party leaders' debate?

I am concerned that we are being bullied by the media into a "Brown, Cameron or Clegg" debate rather than one about which policies are appropriate. We were promised a new type of politics, a new breed of politician. We're going to the polls soon. Have I missed something?

Robert Stewart

Wilmslow, Cheshire

When so many people have taken advantage of the right to a postal vote, it is doubtful if we will ever again see the true wishes of the electorate being recorded.

In households dominated by one person the candidate of their choice is likely to be the one supported by other family members. The same applies to nursing and residential homes where matrons and carers have a great deal of influence over the residents.

In the privacy of the polling booth a person can vote for the candidate they wish to see elected, no matter what promises may have been made beforehand. Polling stations are open from early morning to late at night and all now have wheelchair access, so I see no need for postal voting.

William W Scott

North Berwick, East Lothian

Serious dangers attend home births

Your article on the problems encountered by midwife Susan Rose (22 February) left me disappointed and dismayed. Disappointed that in a developed country women still put their babies at risk by choosing to give birth at home, and dismayed to note that the baby was damaged.

I have been a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology for over 30 years and have often had to deal with shoulder dystocia, the birth complication encountered by Rose when delivering Daisy Anderson. Shoulder dystocia is one of the most frightening and dramatic emergencies to occur in childbirth. It cannot be easily predicted or prevented. Although uncommon, it is not rare. When it occurs it requires the immediate availability of experienced obstetricians, midwives, anaesthetist, paediatrician and support staff. This support can never be available in the home. Furthermore, community midwives are likely to experience shoulder dystocia only rarely during their professional lifetime, but midwives and obstetricians in hospitals deal with it relatively frequently.

Most home births are without complication, but this is not always the case. Women ought to know that childbirth is a potentially hazardous and unpredictable process. Uncommon complications do occur, and when they do, both mother and baby are at risk. Shoulder dystocia frequently results in damage such as Erb's palsy, cerebral palsy or even death of the newborn child. Surely this is the "bottom line" which to most mothers is more important than how, or to what extent, the midwife needs to cut her in order to deliver her baby in an emergency. Headlines such as "butcher midwife" and phrases like "a piece of meat" are emotive but not the real issue when a baby's life is at stake.

There can of course be no certainty that the outcome for Daisy Anderson would have been any different wherever the birth had taken place and I wish her well.

Brian Alderman FRCOG

Wirral, Merseyside

I was horrified to read that Susan Rose has been struck off the Nursing and Midwifery Council register and can no longer practise as a midwife.

Shoulder dystocia is rare and is every midwife's worst nightmare. As far as I could tell, Ms Rose acted swiftly and professionally. Her actions undoubtedly saved the baby from brain damage or worse, and Ms Anderson is indeed fortunate to have a beautiful five-year-old with only partial paralysis of the arm.

It was a pity that Ms Rose did not get Mr Anderson to call for back-up as soon as she arrived to deliver the baby; she would then have had an independent witness to the events which took place. The fact that none of the three representatives from the Nursing and Midwifery council were required to be expert in normal births and yet can give such an appalling judgment beggars belief, especially as the Supervisor of Midwives, who is an expert, had found Ms Rose fit to practise.

Gill Dixon

Penrith, Cumbria

Insanity of RBS bankers' bonuses

Your front page of 26 February left me gasping. Why will no one explain how RBS is allowed to give its bankers £1.3bn in bonuses at the expense of the taxpayer, having made a loss of £3.9bn? And this at a time when the nation is in debt to the tune of nearly five times its GDP.

Rev Matt Butler


Recipients of large bonuses argue that their bank's financial success should entitle them to a share in the monetary value of this. The quantum is simple to calculate as a fraction of profit – or in the case of RBS, not as catastrophic a loss as forecast.

Why, therefore, should the facilitator of any outcome that can be valued not be similarly rewarded? An exceptional teacher whose pupil rose to become the director of a large publicly owned bank may be entitled to a share of his earnings, as might a doctor performing an intricate and lifesaving operation that restored the patient to full function and many years of quality life.

Dr Christoph Lees

London W14

You report on the bonuses paid to bankers at RBS and quote RBS's chief executive Stephen Hester as saying that "thousands of bankers had already walked out on RBS in pursuit of riches elsewhere". Sir Philip Hampton, the bank's chairman, says that this year's performance is better than last in that a loss of £24.3bn has been reduced to £3.6bn. The extrapolation is so simple that even a banker could understand the logic. This year pay less in bonuses; lose more incompetent bankers, and next year the bank might even make a profit.

John Lowry

Kenilworth, Warwickshire

The case for changing a name

We were pleased to see Mary Dejevsky's note that we are dropping the word "disease" from our charity's name (26 February).

From 8 April we will be Parkinson's UK. This name was chosen based on the views of a range of people, most importantly people affected by Parkinson's. We found that people didn't like our old name. They felt the word "disease" sounded off-putting or contagious. They wanted something more optimistic and simple.

We've had positive responses from people with Parkinson's about getting rid of the word disease, and are confident that with this approach we will reach even more people who need us.

Nicola Brian

Parkinson's disease society,

London SW1

Mosley's privacy

In seeking to justify his moves in the European Court of Human Rights to toughen Britain's privacy laws, Max Mosley (26 February) seems a stranger to the concepts of responsibility and consequences. If he chooses to engage in actions which, while they may be harmless to those involved, are sufficient to cause "irreparable damage" to him in both his professional and private life, he doesn't need to blame "editors" for "destroying a life"; he needs to take a good long look in the mirror.

Ian Jefferson

London W6

Maths vs divinity

David Woods (Letters, 16 February) compares mathematics and divinity and asks what worth there is in the state-funded study of mathematics. Maybe to prove his point that they are equally valid, he could design and build a bridge using only religious texts for reference. I am not sure, though, that he would want to be the first person to cross it.

James Ward-Campbell

Loughborough, Leicestershire

Press censorship

Censorship of the press is not necessary or desirable (The Big Question, 25 February). The answer lies with its readership. If people didn't buy the papers responsible for the excesses, editors wouldn't feel the need to appeal to public prurience.

Doug Meredith


Paul Farrelly's career

In your coverage this week ("MPs' attack provokes the wrath of Murdoch", 24 February), you stated that I was a former Guardian journalist, and also that I write for the paper and contribute regularly to its website.

In fact, my press career, before getting elected in 2001, encompassed Reuters, The Independent on Sunday and The Observer, but not the latter's daily sister, although I appear on its website.

Paul Farrelly mp

(Newcastle-under-Lyme, Lab),

Member of the Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee

View from the gods

I sympathise with Alice Jones ("Can you hear me up there?" 25 February). In days past I watched opera productions from the gods and can confirm that the only thing enhanced by gallery seating is the patron's view of the soprano's decolletage.

Martyn P Jackson

Cramlington, Northumberland

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