BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC Onepolitics show


Last Updated: Thursday, 1 March 2007, 15:29 GMT
Migrant workers
Deborah McGurran
Deborah McGurran
The Politics Show East

Packing houses
Food production offers jobs for migrants

This week we are really in the East, the east of Europe, in Vilnius the capital of Lithuania.

With thousands of Lithuanians living in Norfolk alone, we have made the trip there to see why so many of them are coming over here to work with us.

Especially when the reality of life here can be harsh.

Sisters Valentina and Alfreda left their children and grandchildren to come to Norfolk three years ago.

Every weekday they are bussed 50 miles to a chicken factory.

They are nearly 60... yet they stand for hours on a production line.

Migrant pie chart

They insist life is good. although not what they expected.

Valentina said: "I like it but I'm disappointed. It is not what I dreamed of. I always believed it was like a kingdom and everyone here lived like kings but it's not like that at all".

Minimum... wages and comfort

Some hotels in Great Yarmouth house dozens of Lithuanians. Rooms are small, the only heating a tiny fan heater.

Work is in a factory, for a minimum wage.

They also have to pay for meals, accommodation and transport to work.

Over there we met Theresa Vishnievskia. In the past she has left her two children to work in England. Why?

Because in two months she earned the equivalent of six months wages back home. She is keen to work here again.

She said:" It is easier to make a living in the UK. With wages you can live without problems and save money.

"We pay rent, electricity and heating.

"There is just enough over to buy food for the children."

Short paid

But that income can come at a price. Several Lithuanians contacted us to complain over their treatment and pay working in local poultry farms.

Tanya (not her real name) told us:

"The hours we would do varied. sometimes 40, 60 even 90 hours a week. It just depends...

"We weren't always paid for the hours we worked. Sometimes one or two hours were just taken off.

"If you complained you were told 'if you don't like it you don't work'.

"For the first two weeks I was paid 2.50 an hour.

"Eventually it went up to 5.35 an hour.

"One of them would come in and scream into the ears of the people when they were working. They did not treat us like human beings.

"There were many occasions when I would cry in the factory"

What do you think?

Let us know on the e-mail form below what your thoughts are...

Join the Politics Show team on Sunday 04 March 2007 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.

Send us your comments:

Your E-mail address:

Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all emails will be published.

Politics Show East
14 Sep 05 |  Politics Show

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

banner watch listen bbc sport Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific