Employer groups split over limits on migrant workers from new EU states

Hard-line government plans to restrict migrant workers from Bulgaria and Romania have provoked a mixed reaction from employers’ groups.

Home secretary John Reid last week unveiled a raft of measures to limit the number of people coming to the UK from the two Eastern European countries when they join the EU on 1 January 2007. These include on-the-spot fines of up to £1,000 for working illegally in the UK, and even higher fines for the firms employing them.

Critics immediately said the crackdown was unnecessary and questioned the Home Office’s ability to impose the measures. Others said the unexpected scale of migration from Poland since it joined the EU meant the government’s strict approach was justified.

Susan Anderson, director of HR policy at the CBI, said: “The number of migrant workers from central Europe [coming] to the UK has far exceeded expectations, so it is right to take a measured approach and apply temporary restrictions on Romania and Bulgaria.”

John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said the influx of workers from central and Eastern Europe since 2004 had put pressure on social infrastructure, with possible adverse consequences for less-skilled employees.

But the Recruitment and Employment Confederation hit out at the government. Chief executive Marcia Roberts said: “The demand for workers in sectors such as construction and HGV driving persists, so it is a shame that the Home Office has opted for a fudge.”

The TUC warned that employees from these countries could be exploited if they were not allowed to work legally.

“While we welcome the recognition in today’s statement that more should be done to crack down on rogue employers, they are neither broad nor effective enough to lift standards,” it said.


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