Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Workers of the World Unite

The government’s immigration bill was voted through the House of Commons on Monday night with a majority of 99. Once  it eventually gets the royal assent it will repeal EU freedom of movement.  The immigration bill claims it is introducing a points-based system, but it is more an income-based one.  It proposes to end freedom of movement from the EU and apply the same salary threshold and skills requirement to prospective migrants wherever they come from. The rules are due to take effect in January and it is estimated that two-thirds of EU migrants now classed as key workers would not qualify for a work visa next year. 

Many people have woken up now to the fact that vital sectors in the NHS, social care and food production have been kept going by low-paid EU and non-European workers of the kind whose numbers the home secretary, Priti Patel, plans to restrict. Two-thirds of the public (64%) agree that “the coronavirus crisis has made me value the role of ‘low-skilled’ workers, in essential services such as care homes, transport and shops, more than before”.  A YouGov opinion poll commissioned by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants  suggests 54% of people now support looser immigration controls for workers regarded as essential during the pandemic.

JCWI's Satbir Singh said such workers "are not 'unskilled' or unwelcome, they are the backbone of our country and they deserve the security of knowing that this place can be their home too".

The coming recession is unlikely to make Britain attractive to migrants. Travel is also probably going to remain restricted, limiting the scope to find work. Foreign students, the lifeblood of many universities and the towns that house them, will not rush back to Britain. 

It is obvious why there are so few local workers in social care when – after a decade of local government austerity – hourly pay in a largely private sector is lower than in supermarkets.

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