Assessing the Impact of Labour Market Integration Strategies through the Lens of Migrant Worker Experiences in the Mushroom Industry

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Abstract

Title: Assessing the Impact of Labour Market Integration Strategies through the Lens of Migrant Worker Experiences in the Mushroom Industry

Session 3: Labour market integration policies for migrants

The available literature illustrates a range of exploitative practices and unequal power relations reported by migrant workers (see MRCI, 2006), within a ‘continuum of exploitation’ (Potter and Hamilton, 2014, p.393). For migrants, the challenges of adjusting to the demands of local labour markets are further complicated by the particular demands of ‘post conflict’ Northern Ireland politics, the ‘hostile environment’ for undocumented workers, and emergent complexities surrounding the NI/ROI ‘backstop.’ Labour market integration strategies are assessed through an understanding of the everyday experiences of migrant workers in an industry defined by precarity. This paper argues that without effective mechanisms for challenging unequal power relationships in the workplace, rather than adjust to the demands of local labour markets, migrant workforces will continue to be under-valued, defined by precarity and transience.

The paper draws from empirical data generated though the Crossing Borders, Breaking Boundaries project, a third sector initiative established in mid-2018, which operates on both sides of the Irish border. The project seeks to generate data on the experiences of migrant workers in this region, using both worker and employer perspectives, with an overarching objective of developing a local migrant labour integration strategy suitable for both jurisdictions. This paper uses a brief case study of the mushroom industry to examine the issues associated with the effective management of a specialist industry in the border region in the current economic and political climate. It is particularly concerned with the impact this has on worker conditions and treatment of migrant labourers. Drawing from interviews with migrant workers, and survey data from both employer and employee surveys, the paper analyses the interaction between migrant workers and employers, emergent migrant worker networks, and the role of migrant worker support NGOs. Preliminary findings highlight the negative impact of seasonal demand, zero-hour contracts, the increasing value to employers of English as a second language, the changing ethnic composition of the migrant workforce and its increasingly transient nature, competition between recruiting agencies, and the absence of trade union activity.

References:
Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (2006) Harvesting Justice: Mushroom Workers Call for Change.
Dublin. MRCI.

Potter, M. and Hamilton, J. (2014) Picking on vulnerable migrants: precarity and the mushroom industry in Northern Ireland. Work, Employment and Society, 28 (3), pp. 390–406.

Conference

ConferenceSkills and Integration of Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Applicants in European Labour Markets (SIRIUS)
Abbreviated titleSIRIUS
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityGlasgow
Period28/08/1930/08/19
Internet address

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Keywords

  • Precarity
  • Mushroom industry
  • Neoliberalism
  • Northern Ireland
  • Labour exploitation

Cite this

Bloomer, S. (2019). Assessing the Impact of Labour Market Integration Strategies through the Lens of Migrant Worker Experiences in the Mushroom Industry. Paper presented at Skills and Integration of Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Applicants in European Labour Markets (SIRIUS), Glasgow, United Kingdom.