Mercenaries – victims of cheap foreign labour

The Guardian has an entertaining story on its front page with British mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanisatan complaining about being undercut by cheaper eastern European labour, with backgrounds in the special forces of those countries.

The National Association of Security Professionals (Nasp), an organisation for those working in the private security industry, said former British soldiers are being laid off by companies in Iraq who are turning to east Europeans instead. The number of Britons providing security in Iraq has fallen from a peak of about 5,000 in 2004-05 to nearer 2,000 this year.
Mark Shurben-Browne, a director of Nasp, said the market had reached saturation point, with companies receiving 10-20 CVs a day. But many firms were trying to reduce costs by hiring staff from eastern Europe, particularly Serbs and Croats.
“One company sacked half their British workforce and replaced them with cheaper guys with a special forces background from eastern Europe,” said Shurben-Browne.
“The companies are mixing the teams up, keeping two or three expat or British guys on in a team with the rest from eastern Europe.”

The National Association of Security Professionals. Talk about a misnomer. What this is is a gang of mercenaries, who have been getting fat and rich as an unaccountable special army that has a dreadful record of human rights abuses and killing civilians, often being spirited out of the country to avoid local courts – or any justice at all. Astoundingly, there is also an employers’ federation for these people:

Andy Bearpark, director general of the British Association of Private Security Companies (BAPSC), said: “There may be some blokes in Iraq earning £100,000 a year tax-free, but £50,000 tax-free is a much more likely figure now.”
Bearpark has heard of Fijians, Gurkhas, Ukrainians and Sierra Leoneans being employed, usually on much lower wages than British and US personnel. “There was a US firm which was not even paying Sierra Leoneans 10% of what they paid their US staff,” he said.

So mercenaries are the victims of the credit crunch as well as merchant bankers. Every cloud has a silver lining. We on the left are sympathetic to people who lose their jobs by inclination. And perhaps we could view becoming a mercenary as a rational choice by people to employ their particular type of skilled labour power. However, the fact that many are coming from Croatia and Seriba should raise questions, and a clear description of the character of many of the British people involved is provided by Bearpark:

“It’s not unusual for guys to go and buy shares in a Bangkok brothel and within three months they’ve lost it all and then they have to try to get another contract to pay off their debts. They’re not people used to handling a lot of money. The average guy is earning £40,000-£45,000 in Afghanistan, which is nothing like what people were earning in Iraq,” said Bearpark.

I think that says enough about the mercenaries. One other point – the language employed by The Guardian. What have we come to when a paper that is supposed to be the voice of progressive Britain unquestioningly adopts the language of the “private security industry”, and puts it on its front page?

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