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Unfree Again: Social Reproduction, Flexible Labour Markets and the Resurgence of Gang Labour in the UK Author: Kendra Strauss Date of publication: 2012 Journal Volume 45, Issue 1 Session: Date submitted: 1. Introduction In the introduction the paper begins with a short story of a young woman who leaves her home in china and moves to the UK in search of greener pastures…
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A short story is important in an argument because it captures the attention of the reader and also gives a hint on what the entire argument wants to solve or accomplish. Indeed, the story in the introduction is from a film that was developed to in reaction to a tragic situation in which the author says led to the ‘ … deaths of more than 20 Chinese cockle pickers at morecambe bay in Lancashire in 2004’. A brief historical account of the gangmasters and gang labour is provided together their functions. It is also clear in the introduction the direction the discussions and arguments will take. The author dwells so much on the ills of the system in which gangmasters control and provide labour at the expense of the poor labourers. Thus he provides some clues on what the paper will tackle. For instance, the author tries to explain the term social reproduction by considering varied definitions and coming up with the best that suits the situation. She further says that ‘in this paper I will use social reproduction… as a starting point and theoretical lens for examining the reemergence of gang labour in the UK’. ... The author highlights the fact that little research has been done as pertains how gangmasters conducted their work in the past and also in the modern world. Strauss says that ‘there is thus relatively little research that examines the operations of gangmasters in their historical context, and even less that examines current practices of gang labour.’ Straus claims that the reemergence of gangmasters was as the result of the repeal of the Corn Laws. He supports this argument by saying that this repeal opened up British markets to competition which in turn led to a reduction of food prices and affected agricultural profits. Thus gangmasters emerged because they offered cheap labour hence ensuring that the profits margins remained high. The author suggests that more should be done to identify the origin or nationality of gang workers. He says that mainly the gang workers come from European countries but that there are also some whose accounts are undocumented and provides the case of the character in the film at the introduction known as Ai Qin. More research is therefore needed to ascertain the places these workers come from, their identities and other factors if the issue of unfree labour is to be properly addressed. Another argument advanced by Strauss is that though numerous studies have been conducted on the gangmaster issue, and recommendations made such as the establishment of the Gangmaster licensing Act(GLA), there is not much that has been done to indicate that the working conditions of workers and housing has been improved. He further claims that GLA is not executing its mandate to the fullest and this could be probably due to what Strauss (quoting MAFF 1999) said that ‘the government was seen
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