Wednesday, 1 January 2014


At the beginning of the 1980's I worked in Germany. I was a carpenter and prepared to live in a wooden shed on a building site working 72 hours a week. This for better pay than was available in the UK and was accurately portrayed in Auf Wiedersehen Pet. There was a mix of blokes, yes we were all male, many with other reasons to leave the uk. Often financial trouble from a divorce, occasionally a fear of the law. One thing in common was we were prepared to do what it took to make what we thought could be a better life.

We were on one level warmly welcomed as we were generally more skilled craftsmen and there was a real shortage of tradesmen who would work that hard. Many of the German tradesmen were more interested in management and had not had the experience as they were only passing through a craft on their way to management. A good way to train managers but not the best way to build an experienced team of craftsmen. We were however not as welcomed by the communities we were dropped into. We were accused of stealing their jobs and women by those frightened of change. This in a country planning re unification with massive economic and political upheaval. Some criticism was justified as there was a problem adjusting to the culture especially as drinking all day while working was normal on building sites in those days.

When I hear people frightened by the prospect of economic migrants coming to the UK I do wonder if they realise how we took advantage of this opportunity ourselves. Belonging as we do to an area of free trade that we take full use of. I suspect we will be sending some of our best bankers to help the Romanians in return for their gift of cheap labour. I wonder which will be the most honest trade and which country stands to gain the most.

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