ABSTRACT

Introduction As intra-EU labour mobility has increased with successive waves of EU enlargement since the 1980s, industrial relations research has focused on the ways in which these flows have impacted upon the national wage systems and employment regulations of the receiving states (see Berntsen and Lillie, Chapter 2, Cremers, Chapter 9 and Krings et al., Chapter 1, this volume). In such accounts, labour migration typically appears as a challenge or threat to the (usually welldeveloped) labour market institutions and regulations in the high-wage destination countries. The loss of sovereign control over borders in the EU Internal Market and the questioning of the territorial principle of labour law by European jurisdiction are often seen as fundamental to these issues (Bernaciak, Introduction to this volume). What has caught researchers’ attention to a much lesser extent is the fact that the erosion of obstacles to transnational flows of labour and capital within the EU and the spatial extension through enlargement have gone hand in hand with the hardening of frontiers to the majority of non-EU workers. EU regulations have played an increasingly significant role in these processes (Geddes, 2008). Externally, the creation of the Schengen zone has resulted in the ‘fortification’ of EU borders. EU member states have sought to restrict the access of family members, asylum seekers and refugees. The official demand for non-EU labour migration has been mainly satisfied through the proliferation of temporary labour migration schemes designed to impede settlement (Castles, 2006). Internally, the boundaries of civic membership have been tightened; access to more stable statuses, including nationality, has tended to become conditional upon diverse proofs of civic virtue (Chauvin and Garcés-Mascarenas, 2012). It is uncertain to what extent these changes have been successful in achieving their principal goal – the reduction of flows that are deemed undesirable and the ‘moralization’ of resident migrant populations. In any case, they have clearly affected the conditions under which people migrate, live and work. This chapter addresses the link between third-country (i.e. non-EU) labour migration and social dumping by focusing on the implications of the legal status of a specific category of migrants, namely irregular migrant workers without a

valid residence and work permit. Over the past two decades, European governments have become preoccupied with the growing presence of irregular migrants. In 2008, an estimated 1.9 to 3.8 million of them resided in the EU (Morehouse and Bloomfield, 2011, p. 6), representing between 7 and 13 per cent of the EU’s foreign population and being concentrated mainly in the old EU member states. The majority of these migrants are in employment or are looking for a job. Public policy concerns about irregular migration range from worries about cultural cohesion, security and political stability, to the negative impact upon the employment of national workers. The primary response from the EU and member states has been to reinforce border controls, increase control pressures on resident irregular populations, facilitate their deportation and increasingly target their employers. Thus, irregular migration has changed from a phenomenon that was quietly dealt with and sustained by state administrations, or even encouraged during the post-war expansion (for France, see BlancChaléard, 2001), into a major public policy problem. Irregularity is first and foremost a ‘juridical status that entails a social relation to the state’ (De Genova, 2002, p. 422) and not a characteristic of individuals. It unifies an otherwise wide variety of people with regard to migratory trajectories, motivations, skills and (professional) situations.1 Rather than providing a neutral frame that allows distinctions between ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ migrants, the law constructs different statuses derogating from national citizenship (Anderson, 2010). In the case of ‘illegals’, the potential consequences generated by the contradiction between migrants’ physical and social presence and their official negation are particularly blatant, ranging from unemployment, immobility and isolation, to death. Moreover, irregular migrants are the object of various policies, usually coming under the policy template of the ‘fight against illegal immigration’ and aimed at suppressing and preventing the phenomenon. Finally, laws and policies pertaining to irregularity are the object of strategies and tactics by actors such as employers and workers who try to circumvent and exploit them. This relates to the social fact that ‘the existence of a legal prohibition creates around it a field of illegal practices’ (Foucault, 1979, p. 280, cited in De Genova, 2002). As a complex tangle of regulations, practices and strategies, these elements constitute the ‘politics of irregularity’. Drawing upon evidence from a case study on the Parisian construction industry, this chapter seeks to identify norm-evading actor strategies and the ensuing patterns of social dumping. It argues that the fear of being dismissed without any notice represents the decisive mechanism that ensures irregular workers’ loyalty in the face of violations of institutionalized (i.e. legally and collectively agreed) employment norms. Rather than promoting a radical departure from such norms, however, irregularity provides employers with leeway for modulating them, depending on the specific worker and market conditions. This situation highlights the normative strength of the National Minimum Wage and the dominant position of the subcontractor in an industry that has become increasingly characterized by the concentration of market power in the hands of large contracting groups.