Oficina Precaria, Scotland: providing free advice for migrant workers
Oficina Precaria of Scotland – is an organisation that deals with attention, support and advice (free legal support) to any migrant residing in Scotland. They offer free solidarity and support for people in a precarious employment situation as a casual worker and as a migrant. Hilary Horrocks explains more.
Brexit is finally upon us. The Scottish government has declared that migrant workers are welcome in Scotland and indeed essential to the country’s economy – but many of them are in precarious employment and, now more than ever, need advice about their rights. The Oficina Precaria of Scotland, based in Edinburgh, is a group of young professionals – mainly Spanish and predominantly women – who volunteer their services to any migrant resident in Scotland. The group offers legal advice and information on immigration law and migration issues; workers’ rights; tenants’ rights and landlord problems; and other aspects of welfare and physical and mental health support. All their advice is given completely free of charge and in several different languages, including English, Spanish, Italian, Catalan and French (with access to Arabic, some African languages, Dutch, Polish and Galician). They can help clients with filling in bureaucratic forms and they can also take cases to employment, first tier or small claims tribunals.
The group has also helped clients to set up co-operatives, as an alternative to precarious jobs that offer no security, and they are prominent in campaigns to expose precarious practices – their renowned DUNG Award goes to Scotland’s most exploitative employers.
Nuria Fraile, team leader and chair of the Oficina, says: ‘Our aim is to put pressure on organisations that show no respect for workers’ rights, and in this way achieve specific improvements for migrant workers – improvements that will benefit all workers in general. But we also want to give visibility to the instability of migrant employment conditions as we are considered cheap labour and second-class citizens.’
Precarious jobs, explains Nuria, mean precarious life conditions, with a negative impact on self esteem and self worth as a human being. ‘Most migrants lack the cultural, social and family support they have in their own countries. Not being able to communicate because of language barriers, nor to understand your rights or know where to go – all this has a huge impact on the self and makes people accept their own exploitation while dehumanising them.’
To combat this, the Oficina promotes and teaches empowerment, running workshops to enable shared experiences and knowledge transfer, giving participants resources for self defence in different life scenarios. The group also facilitates access to organisations, unions, and resources already established in Scotland as well as working closely with other social activist groups in improving labour and life conditions for all workers.
Oficina Precaria always need people to help, especially with translations, knowledge in social support, work related support, etc. in Scotland. They are also urgently seeking a small office premises in Edinburgh for use once a week, on Fridays. If you are interested or can help in any way, get in touch via the website, www.piescotland.org.
You can also find them on their Facebook page. For an appointment (Fridays only), email in the first instance to: https://piescotland.org/es/contacto/