Fenland reacts to Wisbech documentary <i>The Day The Immigrants Left</i> - and have your say

HERE are what Cambs Times/Wisbech Standard readers have said in response to The Day The Immigrants Left, which aired on BBC1 on Wednesday night.

FENLAND has been having its say all week about Evan Davis' controversial TV jobs swap experiment in Wisbech.

The Day The Immigrants Left saw 12 people take on jobs normally carried out by migrant workers across the district.

These are just some of the comments we have received from readers following Wednesday night's BBC show - and you can tell us what you thought by clicking here. Your comments will be added to this discussion.

You can also vote in our web poll, asking whether the documentary painted a false picture of Fenland, by visiting our home page.

I CAN'T believe the one-sided attitude of this show.The unemployed must have been handpicked to prove the point of the programme maker.Why didn't they employ people who are unemployed who want to work? I know many. Also, why didn't they show the work-shy immigrants drunk in the park on a morning?Wisbech is a poorer town due to influx of these immigrants.NIGEL LOWE


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MANY genuine people, who have lost their jobs during the recession, must be seething in anger at the way that programme was presented? To be blunt that programme made the British Worker out to be a moron.All the factories in this area were here long before the migrants. Padleys, Delmonte, Greencore to name a few.I have done more than my fair share of shifts on a potato pre-pack line for the likes of Packwell years ago.You get the distinct impression that if they all went home the Fens would stutter to a complete halt. Well I don't think so.To me it was a poorly presented programme that took the p*** out of the decent people of Wisbech, many of those unemployed who would have returned a good day's work for a poor day's pay.Shame on the BBC.DAVID PATRICK

YOUR comments about the programme seem as biased as you infer the programme was.The potato workers, one of which couldn't even be bothered to turn up on the first day (the other two turned up late), eventually got to grips with the job, applied for work and were not offered anything.Has the employer taken on other workers since that date, and if so did those people turn up on time?The builder was offered work but an employer can only offer jobs when he has enough work to keep them employed. It is, of course, normal practice in the building trade to use self-employed labour.The young lad in the Indian restaurant held out some hope, but the others were a bad joke and gave me the impression that they were quite content to carry on taking benefits.SAM TURNER

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I WATCHED with interest and was not amazed to find that the Wisbech "great unemployed" had no interest in actually working for a living.Perhaps for a follow-on programme you could check into the level of benefits these people receive compared to the wage being offered by the potential employers.Having lived in the town all my life, I am aware of the lack of interest in unemployed people within the town to work compared to the level of available benefits; thus giving no incentive for people to acquire low paid employment.A typical married man with "2.4 children"; after the initial back to work incentive by the government, will find he is considerably worse off than when he was unemployed.COLIN S PHOENIXA Wisbech English worker

NOT for the first time have clever dick big city slickers turned up on our doorsteps to humiliate us 'yokels'!If they don't think 9,000 immigrants in a total population of c20,000 have had an adverse effect then they must be blind (or Socialists).Victor Aveling, that well-known local Tory grandee, did little to support local workers.It's not that many years ago that the agricultural fields around Fenland were populated by hard working locals harvesting potatoes and carrots etc.The people are still here, capable of doing hard work, but have been mechanised out of a job.The only reason he's using manual labour is because asparagus can't be picked mechanically.I'm not sure which researcher selected the locals to be used in the experiment but I had to switch on subtitles because many of them were difficult to understand and I don't mean the East Europeans!RICHARD STIMSON

I WATCHED the programme and thought that the format was flawed to some extent but overall provided a good insight into the present state of affairs.Seasonal work all over the world is done by immigrants as pointed out by your asparagus grower.Not being able to come on and off the dole to take up this kind of employment needs s change of the regulations which should be attended to.Also expecting a young man to start as a waiter in an Indian Restaurant was a non-starter and bound to fail. Waiting at table properly is a skilled job and even if this young chap had been serving fish and chips he would have struggled.However, what came over from most of the participants was their poor attitude to doing work which they regarded as beneath them.Until that changes, we will continue to have permanent unemployed willing to continue raking in enough benefits to keep their chosen life style going.DAVID WILTSHIREHigh WycombeBuckinghamshire

ONCE again smoking, overweight British workers who arrive late for the first day of work with an alternative agenda are shown for what they are!I was sitting there willing for at least one person to arrive on time and show some initiative, sadly disappointed.JMB

PEOPLE of the Fens in the past were never lazy or louts as depicted in the documentary, it's the society we live in that's created these creatures.Typically coming from the fens meant hard working outdoor people who worked and farmed the fens with pride.Sadly that's left us with people as depicted in the documentary who live on benefits etc.Let's see a follow-up programme that shows just how much the benefit seekers get in handouts per week. Judging by the size of some they definitely do not go without food!Also, many who employ the immigrants reap huge rewards by charging for caravan accommodation and travel fees on a daily basis. Obviously, the locals would not pay this.PAUL MCMILLANWisbech

I don't think the programme was a stitch up in anyway at all. Was the premise not made clear to everyone at the start?It certainly seemed that way, when the two guys at the potato packing plant told the third guy that apart from letting himself down, he was also letting them down, as they were trying to disprove the assumption that British workers were not up to the job.Credit where it's due, the two guys turned up for work, and after somewhat expected teething problems cracked on and after two days seemed to have it sorted. I hope they have success in the future.I had more hope for the four who were going to work at Ali's restaurant. They seemed quite keen and up for it.It was a shame three of them couldn't make it in. The fourth was rather thrown in at the deep end, but at least he was there.Picking asparagus didn't seem that great a job, but it won't pick itself and there was at least a chance to make some money.The farmer probably signs contracts with multinational supermarkets before the harvest, and no doubt has little room to 'subsidise' the pickers.The carpenter had a trade and the boss seemed quite happy with his work.Twenty-five years ago I went to Holland, where a friend was going to get me work as a scaffolder. For three months I had to earn money doing agency work.This was very similar to these jobs in Wisbech. Picking tomatoes, packing tubs of margarine and working in a pallet factory.Most of the workers in these places were Turks, Moroccans, British and old Dutch people.Were we taking people's jobs? No, we were doing them because a lot of Dutch people couldn't be bothered. As I was not entitled to benefits, I had no option – either work or leave the country.No matter how unpalatable it is, there are some feckless wasters around. This programme showed that not all unemployed people are.I would like to see a programme in a year’s time as a follow-up, to see how the people are managing. I'm sure some of them will be in work.FRASER MCINTOSHEdinburgh

I LIKE the thought of this programme, but I personally found that it was so one sided.To me it looked like the unemployed workers you picked where hand picked to make out that English workers are not hard workers. I personally have friends out of work that are some of the hardest workers I know.The opinions from this show were very biased towards the immigrants and as this is not a bad thing, but it is also not a good thing.It also did not address the issues faced with immigrants doing jobs that normally would be done by 16-18 year olds, which have been hit the hardest in the job market.There are no part-time jobs available for young people because they are being taken by these immigrants. This then leads onto the so-called 'benefit society' which we should be trying out hardest to stop.ANDREW BENDALL

IT is the Editor of this newspaper who is sadly out of touch.Given the outrageous decline in the quality of the reporting in the Cambs Times, and the puerile attempts to use Fleet Street-style sensationalist reporting to attract attention, it is not surprising that his toys are out of the pram because rival journalists delivered the story he missed.CR LOVE

I FEEL the programme demonstrated the malaise that permeates much of the once proud 'working class' who were eager to support their families with many looking to improve themselves through evening classes and apprenticeships.It is also an indictment on the quality of education particularly in the vocational field where more time is spent in planning than the actual making and doing.For many of those taking part in the programme the education they enjoyed (suffered?) emphasised low-grade GCSE over skills that could be useful in the workplace, especially when the vocational is married, for many, to extended work experience.I hope that the introduction of diplomas will address this but they do need to be very practical with hands-on work place experience (good luck with the risk assessments and health and safety!).My view is that we should not become too hung up about the programme and who to blame but look at the response that should be formulated in schools and colleges and judge our schools/colleges less on GCSE results but more on progression into higher education, both academic and vocational, apprenticeships and employment. Education has to address local needs.Perhaps teachers on their own are not best able to make these judgements but this BBC programme ought be a pointer in the direction that needs to be taken.Community education is a two way process - school governors' take note.D MARSHALL

MY partner and I both watched the programme. We were more impressed by the wonderful camera shots of the town than most of the Wisbech unemployed who were taking over migrant workers jobs.Dean was great and good luck to him for the future. The men who worked at the potato factory seemed to have a big chip on their shoulders initially but then seemed to settle well and I hope they find employment soon.Ashley hadn't even bothered to study the menu prior to starting work and "gave up" under pressure instead of rising to the challenge.The asparagus pickers - well they were a bit of a joke weren't they, motiveless, unfit and bad attitude mostly.As for the ones who didn't even bother to turn up - well what can anyone say. Most of them didn't appear to have a clue what "going to work" meant.I appreciate that these may not have been their jobs of choice, but a job is a job and it is how you approach it that matters.I saw this programme as an opportunity for those people who took part to "showcase" themselves to prospective employers who might be watching. I don't think too many would be overly impressed.In our view the programme just proved that we need migrant workers. This country, in particular the agricultural industry, would probably be on its knees without them.ANON

ALL of those selected allegedly 'wanted' to work. To immediately take it as a slight on your town would suggest that many were watching expecting to be offended. It could just has easily have been Evesham or any number of places in Essex that was chosen.What was seen on that film reminded me of my own experiences as a temporary factory and warehouse worker 15-20 years ago, having spent some time previously out of work and eventually out of home.It is unfortunately not a new phenomenon that many (usually young) people expect to be well paid for doing very little.When temping (pre minimum wage) I came across plenty of young lads who had the attitude of "I'm only getting �4 an hour, why should I break sweat?". It seems that any sort of pride in what you're doing is an alien concept to many.Also, if they had been prepared to get their heads down and graft, they'd find that the time goes rather faster.I found the irony of skilled tradesman working abroad for eight years and then coming back and being unable to find work because of 'foreigners' quite delicious.The one I felt a little sorry for was the lad in the curry house, that really was an 'in at the deep end' and isn't as unskilled a job as some think.The lad who couldn't even be bothered to turn up at the potato packing line and then said that he would only do a job that interested him deserves to have his benefits stopped.A positive is that there will be employers in Wisbech watching and those who did show that they wanted to work may just stand a better chance now.MARK CHITTYCoventry

UNFORTUNATELY, having worked in a job where I was helping the unskilled unemployed find jobs (admittedly in Birmingham, not the Fens) I could have pretty much written the script for this programme.The only thing that I would have got wrong was the numbers turning up, albeit late in some cases, 50 per cent is pretty good. Maybe they were excited about being on TV.The only person I had any sympathy for was the waiter, in my opinion being a good waiter is a skilled job, not something you learn in an hour. Particularly if the food is not what you are used to.We have to get to grips with the fact that we have a vast swathe of workshy unemployable benefits scroungers in this country.The simple fact of the matter is that the immigrants in this programme travelled half way across Europe to do a job for minimum pay. The 12 people from Wisbech struggled to make their way across town.DAVE SMITH MRED DipRP

LET’S face it, this is a fair view of not only the local but the national unemployed.Wherever you placed the UK unemployed of the program they would have still had the “UK OWES ME” attitude.It’s 2010 and we are in recession, every employer needs a return on their investment. This is a basic in business.The unemployed have been spoon fed a belief that it is ok to be a tax burden and live on benefits for the rest of their lives, this is then passed on to their children and the sorry tale continues.Let’s stop the rot now! If benefits are to be paid there needs to be balance, get them litter picking, filling pot holes, painting council owned properties etc.PAULChatteris

I DID indeed watch the programme and later I reviewed it on BBC iPlayer because I felt that there was an important point being made.How do we label the young people who make the most lame excuses for not turning up to a job opportunity? Have we created a society in which inertia rules?I come from a generation (1950/60) where to be unemployed equated with being lazy or with real hardship.My inherited work ethic means that even though I'm now retired, I find it difficult to remain idle so I do voluntary work and I keep busy with DIY projects.Have we as a society created an indolent generation and can we turn this situation around? The immigrant workers have a very strong work ethic and this is what makes them attractive to employers.I would like to see a scheme introduced to motivate our secondary school children to seek a use for their free time which would introduce a sense of responsibility to the community, to their friends and relatives and especially to themselves.I am convinced that many of our rising generation have never experienced the glow of satisfaction that comes of a job well done and from the praise received from society.As an ex-employer, I always found it very satisfying to pay compliments to my apprentices even if they did not get it quite right. We all need encouragement and affirmation.PAUL REITMAN

I FEAR that you have misquoted the television documentary when you wrote "told they could apply for jobs, we hear from a voice over they had indeed applied to work there but their applications had been turned down".This unfortunately wasn't the case. The voice over clearly stated that there had been no vacancies.Workers whose place had been taken by the two British unemployed job seekers would have resumed their work.If you had delved a little deeper into the objective of the documentary you would have realised this.DANIEL FRIDHOLM

I HAVE recently moved back to Fenland after spending a period of more than 20 years working all over England and I watched this programme with interest.I can truthfully say that since returning I have noticed a real change in the character of Wisbech and unfortunately it is not for the better.When I visit other local towns and villages the local people still seem cheerful, friendly and very helpful, which is what I remember it being like when I grew up in Wisbech.It was never a well off town even then and in the 1980s when I left to find work, unemployment levels were also high but the area didn’t feel as run down and depressed as it does now.It is only a small town and there have never been a large number of jobs so surely a large influx of people wherever they came from was going to make it difficult for everyone to find work.I did have a suspicion that in some cases the people in the documentary were set up to fail by the local employers who clearly expected them to do badly.I think this was especially true for the two men working at the potato factory. In my experience (admittedly long ago) of factory work that I undertook in Wisbech, whilst I was at college, new workers would not be placed together on the same line as they would struggle to keep up and need some help to start with.Surely they should have been placed on different lines at least for a short period whilst they were building up their speed and could be supported by other staff in that time.I wonder if new migrant workers are placed together in the same way.They were also accused of not placing enough bags in the crates and although the third worker (an immigrant) was unlikely to be the culprit surely they were a team and should have been treated as such. This attitude cannot help integration between migrants and locals and if anything may create additional problems.However, it was reassuring to see that during the short period of filming these two men formed good relationships with some of the immigrants in the factory and appeared to be doing as good a job as everyone else. I was disappointed to find out at the end that despite applying neither of them were offered a job at the factory.Dean the carpenter also proved he could do a good job despite the criticisms he received from the foreman. This man criticised him just because he did things differently to him.I have used several builders during my travels and they used nails rather than screws when they carried out the same type of work so I assume this is the British way of doing things.Does this make either one or the other better and if a British person criticised an immigrant in the same way would he be accused of being racist?Ashley was always going to find it difficult working in an Indian restaurant when he didn’t understand the menu.Perhaps he would have been better working behind the scenes in the kitchen where he could learn about the food before serving it.He appeared keen to work hard but was upset and flustered when he wasn’t really able to carry out the job with such a limited knowledge of the menu.Perhaps in this instance the right job wasn’t matched to the right person and it says more about the local economy if this was the only job that could be found for him.Finally the farm workers – who unfortunately in my view were not shown in a very good light. Anyone who has done this type of work will know that it is physically very demanding.I picked fruit when I was young and extremely fit and can still remember how tough it was.I did not expect the British workers to be able to keep up with the migrants in such a short space of time. I wonder what Victor Aveling will do if the migrant workforce dries up, as machinery in place of the workforce would I assume be quite costly to buy and maintain.I am sure there are people in the area who do not want to work or expect to be paid more than a fair rate because they are cushioned by benefits. But there are also people like those in the documentary that genuinely want to work but with a limited number of unskilled jobs available are finding it almost impossible.However, on the bright side perhaps all these migrants will fulfil Labour’s wish and vote for them in the coming elections and they will gain another Labour MP in parliament.JULIE TURNERBluebell HouseThorney

THE Day The Immigrants Left, shown on BBC1, has been a topic that everyone all over town is talking about.In every conversation I have had, the young man who tried to work at the Indian restaurant gets the vote for trying.It is not an easy job. I wish him well and hope the he gets a job soon.T.J. MOORE

I THINK it is a joke that they have a majority of migrant workers in the Greenvale factory.My two sons have unfortunately been out of work since just before Christmas 2009.They have put in applications everywhere including Greenvale which was advertised in the Wisbech Jobcentre. They didn't even get any reply.They just advertise to go through the motions. They don't really want English people working there really.I know some people are lazy but I can vouch for my two boys aged 21 and 22 who are desperate for work.Because of their age they are no doubt tarred with the same brush as others their age who doss.AMANDA HARRISON

I WATCHED the programme with utter disgust, with how it made the British people look like total idiots. I have worked all my life and a lot of that time I worked the fields.I cannot see how this programme can judge the British people in such a short space of time. You cannot expect people to go into a job and work to the standard of the immigrants in just two days.When I first worked the fields it took me about a week to find the best and quickest way to earn good money.I have also worked in a restaurant and found this took a couple of days to learn the ropes.I also worked in a bank in the audit department and that took me a month to learn this role.I am now a carer and have to sometimes shadow new members of staff and in no way would I expect them to be up to my standard on their first or second day.I feel that this program has just made the British public even more angry then they were before.It’s about time the government did something about the very high unemployment of British people.Also a lot of the money that the immigrants are earning is being sent out of this country to their own. I have seen it for myself, whilst waiting in the queue at the post office. There will soon be no money left in this country at all.My son is unemployed and is out every day looking for work. A lot of jobs he can’t do due to the lack of a bus service in Guyhirn.My son had a job working for a coach firm as a heavy duty mechanic but was made redundant – he paid his tax and national insurance like everyone else.When he went to sign for jobseekers allowance he was told because he was under 18 he could get nothing. He was told to go to college, then earn himself �30 a week. That wouldn’t even cover travel, let alone his keep.He is now 18 and has been signing on since December 17 and never received a penny until end the end of January. He is now fighting them again for some money to try and get a job. He feels so degraded when he signs on at the dole office.The dole office has a great way of saving the government money by sending the jobseekers on a back to work course knowing a lot can’t make this course due to the lack of busses - especially where we live in Guyhirn.The Norfolk Green bus runs at 7.40am and the next one isn’t until 9.40am, so you ring the dole office to explain that a 9am start would be a bit hard to get to as the bus does not get into Wisbech until after 10am. Their answer to that is: if you don’t turn up you get no money.Also, the government is very hot on discrimination to the immigrants. But what about age discrimination between the 16 and 18 year olds? If you are that age you get no dole money.Between 18 and 25 you can only have �188 for rent that won’t even give you a box room in a shared house.But when you reach 25 you can have �400 a month for rent but if you get a job the government thinks you’re old enough then to pay full tax and national insurance. That to me is age discrimination and needs to be dealt with.I would like to see the government live on what the people on the dole have to. I bet they couldn’t last but they don’t care. They probably get more then �56 an hour so they are laughing.Sorry if I sound so bitter, but I can assure you most people I speak to feel the same – the UK is going to pot.TINA FORDERGuyhirn

OH dear, Wisbech, this programme did show you in a very bad light indeed.According to this paper it was a "stitch-up" by the BBC - but lets look at the facts shall we.The participants in the programme were on the whole lazy, bigoted, uneducated, racist, uninterested in working, conceited, stupid, clearly unused to hard work, full of attitude and excuses, and quick to blame everyone apart from themselves for their shortcomings. They did themselves and the town a huge dis-service.Is it any wonder that local employers choose people who are polite, reliable, good-natured and willing to work over these layabouts?If you want to blame someone for the way Wisbech was portrayed, blame those whose were offered a job but didn't bother to turn up, not the BBC for capturing their appalling behaviour on film.It was embarrassing to watch these people - they are a disgraceMICK STAFFHigh StreetWisbech

I WAS amazed at the one-sided view given by the BBC about the impact of Immigration in Wisbech.No doubt there are good honest workers from Eastern Europe but hardly any mention was made of the downside of this influx of people.In Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Lincolnshire alone some of their number, between them, commit or are accused of literally hundreds of crimes each year and not just minor crimes.Most cases require an interpreter, a solicitor, police and court time.This, as far as I am aware, costs the taxpayer millions of pounds each year.On top of this there is the cost of interpreters and extra time involved for medical appointments etc.Perhaps the BBC should do another programme this time giving all the facts.L M NORMAN

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