Election 2015 England

Election 2015: Birmingham factory workers share their views

Election 2015 England

Towns and cities across England will be visited by politicians of all persuasions over the coming weeks as the country gears up for the general election. While they do that, BBC News will be visiting offices, factories and other workplaces to gauge the mood of those who matter most - the voters.

On an industrial estate on the outskirts of Birmingham's city centre, a team of factory workers is busy making parts for some of the biggest names in the car business.

Established in 1991, Qualplast offers flock coating services, putting the fabric-style finishing into cars' glove boxes before they roll off the production line. Clients include fellow Midlands-based company Jaguar Land Rover as well as Toyota and Nissan.

Qualplast's managing director David Caro is very clear on where his priorities lie when it comes to the election.

A member of the Birmingham branch of the Federation of Small Businesses for 18 years, Mr Caro is looking for improved access to finance and better employment legislation to allow companies to flourish.

"We've got to encourage the economy to keep on growing," he said.

Image caption David Caro, the managing director of Qualplast, wants measures to allow small businesses to flourish
Image caption The company specialises in adding a fine fibre coating, flock, to the inside of car glove boxes

Mr Caro, 64, says he has become "really sick" of debates around the issue of immigration.

"The focus has been on immigration from Europe because we have free access and free movement of people is one of the key pillars of the union treaties we've signed," he said.

"If we look at immigration figures, there's more immigration from outside the EU into the UK than there is from within the EU.

"If we can't do anything about the immigration that we have potential to do something about, which is non-EU immigration, then why are we worrying so much about EU immigration?"

But those views are not shared by some of the 27 people he employs.

Image caption Pawittar Singh, a Qualplast worker, said he thought there should be limits on immigration levels

Shop floor worker Pawittar Singh, 60, believes a limit should be placed on immigration.

"You can't keep letting people in, because sooner or later it's going to go bust. Jobs should be given to people here," he said.

"If they don't want them, it should be up to the company to look elsewhere. But people here should be offered them first."

Dawn Stevens, a quality controller, agrees.

"The biggest issue I care about is stopping the foreigners from coming in. British jobs should be for British workers"

Image caption Quality controller Dawn Stevens wants "British jobs for British people" and opposes immigration

Ms Stevens, 45, has only been to the polls once before, but is considering voting for UKIP on 7 May.

"To get my vote, a politician would have to say they'd look after the British people. I'm not racist, far from it, but at the end of the day I'm a British worker and we deserve our rights."

She also wants to see changes to the benefits system, as her two daughters struggle to make ends meet by having to use their benefits to pay for privately-rented housing.

"I help out so they can get food shopping, but it's not fair that I should have to do that. Benefits should be capped for some people, the people you see with flash clothes and cars. You think, 'you're on benefits, how can you afford that?'"

Image caption The factory in Hamstead, Birmingham, has clients including Jaguar Land Rover, Toyota and Nissan
Image caption Brian Mcwee would prefer changes to the benefits system to "make it fairer"

Brian Mcwee, 56, works in the factory as a flock coater.

He supports the idea of changing the benefits system but, unlike Ms Stevens, he would like to see it made more difficult for people claiming allowances to get the money.

"We have to work 40-odd hours a week but once we've paid our council tax, our rates, everything else, we're £10 better off than people on benefits. It should be harder for them to get the money. Or the government should tax the benefits they get to make it harder for them, like it is for us," he said.

Mr Mcwee is not too concerned about the impact of immigration. "I think it's pointless letting it get to you. You have to live with it - but it's up to the government to sort it out."

Suphi Bedevi, the company secretary, describes himself as having "strong views" on certain social issues.

He believes teenage mothers should not automatically be entitled to benefits once they have their baby.

Image caption Suphi Bedevi, the company's secretary, said he would be voting Conservative in May

"To me, if you haven't paid into the system, you shouldn't be entitled to get anything out of it, it's as simple as that. If you want to choose to have a baby, either you've got to do it, or your parents will have to help you - not the government," he said.

Mr Bedevi also wants improved employment legislation to protect businesses from excessive sick leave.

"The government should really tighten up on it," he said.

The 68 year old plans to give his vote to the Conservatives.

"At least they're trying to keep the bars of balance down and all our debts down."

Image caption The company has been involved in flock coating in the car industry for a number of years

All the shop floor workers agree on one thing - they do not trust what politicians have to say.

"I don't care about the election. Any one that comes in is exactly the same, so unless they increase my wages I'm not interested," said Mr Singh.

"It's always been the same, they all put the taxes up, they all put the petrol up, they all put the cigarettes up."

His colleague, 42-year-old Christopher Bloomer, shares that attitude.

Image caption Christopher Bloomer, who works as a flock coater, will not be voting in the coming election

"I'm not going to vote, because all the politicians are the same. They're all on about the same things at the end of the day. Why vote for one and not the others? They're not like us guys who have to work very hard and go home with nothing in your pocket," he said.

And how about their boss, Mr Caro? He is yet to decide.

"Unfortunately, like a lot of people, there's bits from many of the parties you could take and say yes I like that or that, and it's trying to find the party that gives you most of what you like," he said.

"I shall vote, I think it's important, particularly in this election with so much at stake. I think it's going to be a very interesting political period."

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