For small businesses doing repairs and renovations, installing new kitchens and bathrooms, building extensions there are many problems that make working life difficult BUT migrants are not one of them.
I can confidently tell you that in Thanet and across Kent we are not losing work because immigrant plumbers are undercutting us. It is easy to make an Al Murray type joke about Polish plumbers but I network with plumbers across the UK and consistently the many problems we face are the same and immigrants rarely figure in the conversation. We lose work because of many reasons but when it come to money here are possibly the top two reasons
1. OTHER BRITISH workers often offer a cheaper quote
2. The customer can’t afford us.
Both of these factors are really important when you think about voting in the national election.
1. Other British workers can undercut us because of a number of reasons both legal and not legal. We believe a substantial amount of work (for private householders) is done by people who are often not insured, not qualified, and may not be declaring tax.
The VAT system is unfair. It is far better for the customer if the plumber or other worker supplies all of the goods (it gives the customer better protection under the law) BUT many of our competitors do not do this to avoid being VAT registered. Ultimately on average a customer would have to pay a VAT registered company 10% more to do the same job charges at exactly the same rate of profit.
The lack of a level playing field is a big complaint among our peers. Knowledgeable & qualified tradesmen generally work to the highest standards, comply with British Standards and Building Regulations. Then the unqualified don’t bother, if fact, they don’t even know the rules, such as the Water Regulations. And I could go on about red tape and paperwork…
2. Customers can’t afford us. It is not that a new bathroom is too expensive, we’re not making a bank-robbery load of money on it. It is not that heating engineers charge too much to install a new boiler. It is the fact that many many people are struggling with the basic cost of living, even if they are a household with two incomes on a good wage.
For customers to have spare cash to pay construction workers to do essential repairs or luxurious improvements we need a boost to the economy, better job security, prospects, wages… etc.
I think the Tory politics of Austerity has exacerbated our problems over the past five years. They have a terrible economic track record. I’m not sure labour will do much better but I don’t think they will do worse.
I really wanted to point out that UKIP are not the solution because they have not identified the problem. They blame everything on foreigners. In our area of work here in Kent this is not true. I also talk to plumbers all over the country and they say the same thing in online forums and groups.
Would It Help if there were less Migrants Here?
I read something interesting at the weekend. Remember our small businesses do well whe the economy is doing well and people have money in their pocket to spend.
Migrants add to Britain more than they take. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24813467
By how much?
Twenty five billion pounds. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/nov/05/migration-target-useless-experts
That’s how much we’d be worse off if they hadn’t been coming.
Finally, I must just add a comment about how it is said that migrants come here and drive down the wages. Firstly, labour introduced the Minimum wage, employers are breaking the law if they pay less. Labour propose to increase the minimum wage considerably…
What would UKIP do? They want to abolish the minimum wage and reduce employees employment rights. Great for unscrupulous employers, really bad for most of us.