From education to employment

TUC conference addresses dangers to workers and stresses union involvement

Migrant workers are subject to exploitation, dangerous working conditions and jobs far below their skill levels, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) warned yesterday.

Deputy General Secretary Frances O” Grady addressed the TUC conference in London, focusing on fairness for migrant workers. Organised to encourage unions and agencies to work together to help migrant workers get fairer treatment at work and in everyday life, the TUC called for trade union organisation, enforcement of the law and stronger rights.

She said: “Migrant workers make a massive contribution to our economy, public services and national life. Some have a positive experience of working in Britain, but the day-to-day reality many face is exploitation, dangerous working conditions, and employment far below their skill level”.

“The migrant worker horror stories are sadly all too familiar, but that doesn”t make them any less shocking. Like the two Filipino women being paid £75 for an 80-hour week at a Norfolk care home; the Portuguese man and his pregnant wife working on a farm in Lancashire, sharing a house with 17 others, and left with just £6 a week to live on after deductions”.

“This is not some Dickensian nightmare – this is happening here and now, in Britain, in 2006. The best protection migrant workers can have is the protection of a trade union”.

The TUC has been active in promoting the case of migrant workers, winning a pivotal commitment from the UK and Polish governments in closing a tax loophole, and developing strong links with community groups.

She added: “One way of tackling exploitation of migrant workers would be for the UK Government to introduce a social agreement on migration between ministers, employers and the unions”.

“This has at its heart support for an open labour market, but is accompanied by stronger enforcement of employment rights and tougher penalties for rogue bosses who exploit vulnerable workers”.

Roisin Kiernan.

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