From the TUC

Cameron’s message for International Migrants Day: Go Home

18 Dec 2013, by in International

In a horrible twist of timing, David Cameron chose today, International Migrants Day, to announce that he intends to limit benefits to EU migrants, to:

‘make the UK a less attractive place for EU migrants who want to come here and try to live off the state’

First off, this is not a ‘new’ policy at all – EU law already allows countries to limit benefits to certain criteria and periods of time, as NIESR Director Jonathan Portes was quick to comment this morning on Radio 4.

But Cameron’s message was loud and clear – migrants are not welcome. Contrast this to the website of the UN where Ban Ki-Moon implores people to spend International Migrants Day meditating on the face that

‘There are 232 people living outside of their country of birth including myself.  All of us are part of a productive economy which benefits our world as a whole’

 The majority of migrants move for work and it is only right that countries which benefit from this contribution, such as the UK which grew by an extra £22 billion due to A8 migration alone, provide migrants with the same standards of protection and rights as we would expect to be given. 

ETUC’s General Secretary Bernadette Segol on our Stronger Unions site today argues that migrants must be granted the same conditions and protections in EU law that apply to non-migrants, including the right to social assistance, employment protection and freedom from discrimination.

Sadly, Cameron has spent the day fuelling discrimination against migrants which, as Owen Tudor has said elsewhere on Touchstone, spells danger for all workers in the UK, non-migrant and migrant.  

Driving divisions in society between one group of workers and another increases means employers are more likely to use one group to undercut the other on pay and conditions.  That’s why the TUC opposed transitional measures for Romanian and Bulgarian workers in 2007 – these measures meant that workers from Romania and Bulgaria could only enter the labour market on a self-employed basis or in seasonal agricultural schemes. 

We saw unscrupulous employers take on many Romanians and Bulgarians on bogus self-employed contracts, particularly in construction and cleaning, sometimes paid under the minimum wage, which made conditions worse for all workers. Now British people find themselves increasingly forced into bogus self-employment with the accompanying low wages and lack of rights.

By fuelling a culture which believe migrants deserve less rights than UK citizens, Cameron is encouraging a culture of exploitation and abuse where employers use one group against another to race to the bottom.

Sadly, the Tories are not listening to people we have spoken to who are finding it harder than ever to get by. Rather its head is buried in the opinions of tabloid reports, like today’s Sun which declared:

‘If more come in then get us OUT’

The Sun suggests that the government should introduce stronger measures against migrants, otherwise we will have no option other than to leave the EU. 

The Sun, along with UKIP and the right, is whipping up an ugly sentiment that equates migrants as a more scary – because they are foreign –  variant of their reviled ‘benefit scrounger’.  This is despite the fact that government’s own commissioned research found that migrants are less likely to claim benefits than UK born citizens – this is exposed in TUC South West’s new ‘Truth, Lies and Migrants’ booklet launched today too.

The Right have migrants in their sights as an easy target to blame for the hardship people are feeling.  They would like to see less migrants as they claim this would create more employment and higher wages for UK citizens.  But the jobs on offer at the moment for everyone are getting worse and worse.  Last week even Immigration minister Mark Harper criticised Domino’s Pizza for the low wages they were paying employees that made their claims that they ‘couldn’t’ recruit enough people.

The government urgently needs to turn away from the red tops and listen to the message of International Migrants Day – everyone needs rights at work and decent pay. Clamping down and fuelling hostility towards migrants only a green light to exploitative employers and scapegoats  for the hardship their austerity is causing.

One Response to Cameron’s message for International Migrants Day: Go Home

  1. UNHCR backs TUC concerns on Immigration Bill | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC
    Dec 26th 2013, 10:35 am

    […] policies and announcements are not even intended to deliver their stated intentions, but simply to make like difficult for immigrants whether genuine or fraudulent, or just to ‘sound tough’, thus shoring up a Conservative […]