Spreading positive messages on migration on International Migrants Day
Thursday 18 December is International Migrants Day, so it is appropriate that I inform you of the latest TUC project on migration.
The TUC’s Migration Messaging Campaign began earlier this year to challenge the subject of scapegoating migrants for social and economic concerns in the media and toxic political rhetoric, by promoting progressive messages at the local level. These messages would highlight the real causes of communities’ concern: worker exploitation and lack of local investment. The campaign is working in three pilot areas, Corby, Manchester and Southampton.
Things kicked off to a great start with introductory media and advocacy workshops held within the three regional areas.
From these workshops and local mapping exercises, we were able to assemble a campaign group in each area consisting of a mixture of trade union activists, local voluntary organisations, community groups and local councillors. These groups meet locally on a regular basis and continue to develop local campaign ideas that aim to shift the debate away from blaming migrants for the economic problems affecting each local area.
In Manchester, the campaign group is currently working with a migrant community organisation to collect case studies of worker exploitation of both migrant and non migrant workers. We hope to use these stories to feed into radio programmes run by a local voluntary radio station in order to highlight the issues and show that government policies are to blame for the job insecurities and not migrant workers.
Corby is an area where the manufacturing sector accounts for a large percentage of jobs. Our Corby campaign group is working with USDAW reps to develop a short film which aims to profile positive employment/union practices within the biggest manufacturing employer in the area, by contrasting that with personal stories of worker exploitation and internal workplace segregation of migrants and non-migrants within other local manufacturing companies. We hope that this film will be showcased at a future local event at the Corby council offices, with members of the local Chambers of Commerce, local MP, local employers and councillors invited. The aim of this event will be to highlight the real concerns of worker exploitation and using the messages in the film to put pressure on those in power to influence the local employers away from exploiting their workers.
In Southampton, our group has formed a local identity by adopting the name ‘Southampton Communities Alliance’. The group as a whole identified that there are concerns being generated around a publically owned broadcaster’s decision to commission a TV programme that has been filmed in Southampton’s Derby Road called ‘Immigration Street’. Our campaign group is working with local residents’ associations, local councillors, local MPs, community groups, voluntary organisations and advocacy groups to call for the screening of the TV programme to be cancelled. Southampton locals are concerned the airing of the proposed programme next year will have a detrimental effect on the local community and will exploit vulnerable people, risk the attraction of extremists and incite racism, especially when 84% of hate crimes committed in the last year have been race hate crimes. The group plans to hold events raising awareness of the campaign, and encourage local residents to change their perceptions of migrants in the local area by working with Southampton Solent University students to make a series of 6 short films about Derby Road, filmed from the residents’ perspectives and the professionals engaging with them, to reflect a true picture of the multicultural community.
The next few months will lend itself to a flurry of campaign activity as we aim to highlight the need for decent jobs, fair pay, respect and a voice at work for migrants and non migrants alike as stated in the TUC’s Campaign Plan. It is worth noting that the approach of unions being visible at community level, talking to local people, voluntary organisations and community groups about issues such as migration has increased coalition building within this project. Building up existing and new sustainable local partnerships with these groups creates new opportunities for local people and migrants to see the importance of joining a union.