G's Marketing in Soham
IN the second part of our immigration series, CATHERINE ATKINSON went to G s Marketing in Soham to find out what day-to-day life is like for migrant workers in East Cambs. REPRESENTATIVES from Gs regularly travel to Eastern Europe to recruit staff for
IN the second part of our immigration series, CATHERINE ATKINSON went to G's Marketing in Soham to find out what day-to-day life is like for migrant workers in East Cambs.
REPRESENTATIVES from Gs regularly travel to Eastern Europe to recruit staff for their agricultural and factory operations at Barway, near Soham. The workers include young Bulgarians, and Poles, who they were happy to provide the Ely Standard a snapshot of the lives of the 2,000 temporary workers who walk through the doors of G's each year.
As we settle down in the vast social centre at the back of G's site, accompanied by Polish hostel warden and man-about-the-office, Robert, you notice that the facilities here are on a par with a university campus and include a state-of-the-art basketball court, a brand new Internet café, and delicatessen and picnic area. Providing them, says leisure manager Sharon Cross, is just part of what it is to be a responsible employer, but she makes it clear that, like any other company, Gs has to compete to attract workers.
"Without our seasonal workforce we would struggle to find people who wanted to work here," she says.
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"The jobs are only available for three to six months of the year. The amount of work we have is dependent on the weather so that's obviously more difficult if you have a family or a mortgage."
One of the people best placed to have an overview of the migrant workers is Mrs Cross, who for the last 19 years has been managing the workers' hostel at Gs. She remains resolutely upbeat about the contribution of foreign workers to both Gs itself and the local economy.
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Gs hostel was built 19 years ago and now serves to limit the impact of hundreds of foreign workers descending on the local housing market. Imagine 600 workers trying to find accommodation in Soham or Barway at any one time, needing a contract for just three months of the year, and you see why Gs has set up something on-site. Every worker is registered with the Soham Medical Centre and has the opportunity to set up a bank account, either when they sign up to work at a job fair in their home country, or when they arrive at Gs.
"In a year we have 2,000 people who pay tax and national insurance, says Sharon. "When they come here, workers put very little strain on services." Robert agrees that the company itself is the first port of call for people in trouble, and either he or one of the other English speaking office staff often accompany a worker to dentist, doctor or local authority to get their problems sorted out, so there is no need for outside translators.
"We realise that there is potentially a huge impact on what we do locally," adds Sharon, "and we do try to minimise any negative impact by recruiting locally for the permanent positions.
"A lot of our workers shop in Tesco every week, and even if they do take some of their wages home with them, there's a lot of money that is still spent here."
# The majority of the seasonal workers at Gs are Polish.
# 800 Bulgarians and Romanians work at Gs each year.
# 2,000 people arrive for seasonal work at Gs each year.