Monday, 25 May 2009

Candidate 3: EU won't allow Hackney workers to be undercut

After I spoke to her, someone told me that candidate 3 was Jean Lambert who is already a Green Party MEP for London. I asked her if she saw Hackney as an economy and whether MEPs could have much impact at this level.

She said: “At EU level people don’t talk about local economy. The focus is on international Europe but some of it does have an impact locally like the procurement rules for local authorities. Are they allowed to buy locally? We could change the procurement rules so that if you want to buy locally you can. At the moment the rules make that very difficult.

“There are also the EU social funds and you could look for projects in London that are eligible that keep money local that could support local enterprise.

But how do you interpret the economic situation in a place like Hackney – what are the important factors to watch?

“The EU does have a number of indicators for that, the question is whether they (describe what goes on in local areas) but I don’t think they do.

Will hackney benefit from the Olympic games if it is not an entrepreneurial community?

“No doubt there’s lots of money to be made from the Olympics. If you look at what a lot of communities/countries do to take advantage of big contracts, they can put in a collective bid. Maybe people look at it like that. Maybe you should make sure you have these links already so if an opportunity comes up you can take advantage of it.”

But there are no big companies in Hackney… and Diane Abbot raised the issue of whether Olympic contractors are employing enough locals (mentioned in previous unemployment blogs)? Apparently they employing people from Eastern Europe.

Jean Lambert said: “There are a number of issues with that. Why do people want to employ people from Eastern Europe? Is it because they don’t know their rights and they aren’t unionised? This is one of the things you could bring in: what are the basic wages. We make sure people can’t use foreign labour to undercut national labour.”

On the minimum wage she said that governments were good at saying what rules they had put in place, like minimum wage, but they never say what sort of resources they put into making them happen or policing them.

She spoke about collective bargaining but we agreed that this was more of a tool for people in work, something that the eastern European workers could use to ensure their rights – not something that Hackney unemployed could use to get jobs.

We discussed whether there were many people in Hackney who could do the work anyway, even if they wanted to. Lambert said that this issue was about education: “The emphasis has been so much on intellectual capital and the knowledge economy that there’s an underinvestment in manufacturing and vocational skills.”

So what sort of an Economy is Hackney?

“Hackney has quite a big creative industry and a lot of small businesses. There are parts of Hackney that you walk around and they are not clone town centres and that gives them resilience because they are not reliant on Gap or Next. There is much more of a local economy here. You have a lot of migrant community (entrepreneurs) because if they can’t get work, if they’re excluded from the usual labour market, people set up their own businesses. Or they may come from a culture that encourages entrepreneurialism.” - Last blog on declining entrepreneurialism.

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