The government’s proposed salary threshold for EU migrants will “decimate” the UK’s manufacturing base, according to Make UK, which is urging the government to phase in any minimum earnings level.
According to the manufacturers’ organisation, formerly known as EEF, 88% of employees working in skilled roles in manufacturing would not meet the salary threshold of £30,000, laid out in the government’s immigration white paper.
New analysis from Make UK highlighted that three-quarters of manufacturers employ EU nationals who predominantly fill skilled roles such as engineering technicians.
While the government has proposed to extend the definition of “skilled” to include these job roles in a post-Brexit system, Make UK said this will mean nothing if there is proposed minimum salary threshold of £30,000.
Tim Thomas, Make UK’s director of employment and skills policy, said there are a number of proposals within the government’s immigration white paper that risk “decimating” the manufacturing workforce.
“We need government to urgently reconsider plans to introduce a salary threshold – as a minimum to reduce the rate and offer a phased approach to any salary threshold introduction to allow businesses to adapt and train a different cohort of employees,” he said. “As yet, the UK does not have the home-grown talent and expertise to fill what will soon become vacant job roles.”
Thomas said that it was “essential” for government to abolish the resident labour market test for all job roles, not just those at graduate level and above, and to allow job-seekers who come to the UK through the temporary route to be allowed to switch to the skilled route if they meet the set criteria.
“Getting rid of the immigration skills charge for all non-UK nationals would send a signal to industry that government is in listening mode and not ignoring businesses calls for a simple, flexible skills and migration system.”
The new immigration rules would also mean that EU jobseekers looking to fill lower-skilled roles in manufacturing such as machine operators would only permitted to come into the UK to work for a maximum of 12 months with a 12-month cooling off period.
In London and the South East, Make UK found that 71% of employees would not meet the threshold, increasing to 90% in the North East and 94% in Yorkshire and the Humber.
Other manufacturing roles such as robot operators, toolmakers and maintenance technicians would also be significantly affected by the threshold. Many job roles “almost at graduate level” such as design draftspersons would also fail to meet the threshold.
Thomas added: “We urge the government to take on board real evidence like ours and stops proposing damaging policies that will have significant impacts on the UK economy.”