Unions accuse Government of pitting workers against each other

A migrant workers’ pledge has been signed by some 21 trade unions.

23 January 2023

Unions have accused the Government of trying to “pit worker against worker” as they called for an end to “hostility and racism” against migrant workers.

Some 21 trade unions have signed a migrant workers’ pledge, vowing to stand in solidarity with a group they described as a “vital part of our labour movement and our communities”.

The organisations, including Unison, the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, said all workers in the UK deserve “safety at work, decent pay and protection”.

The pledge stated: “No worker should lose their job or be pushed into poverty, unsustainable debt, homelessness or unsafe housing simply because of the colour of their skin or where they were born.

“No worker should be vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and unable to report mistreatment, out of fear of losing their job or being removed from the country.”

The statement was co-ordinated by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), which said the pledge comes amid a “renewed commitment to the hostile environment” by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The JCWI cited the December announcement by Mr Sunak of an aim to increase raids on illegal working by 50%, as well as the Government’s controversial anti-strike proposals.

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill would require minimum levels of service during industrial action from ambulance staff, firefighters, railway workers and those in other sectors deemed essential.

Unions and opposition MPs have condemned the proposals as unworkable and there are fears workers could be sacked if they refuse to work strike days.

The unions’ pledge stated: “We stand against this Government’s attempts to pit worker against worker, and recognise that united we are stronger. An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Signatories vowed to “strive to advance the rights of undocumented workers, who remain at the sharpest end of workplace precarity, and will work to secure their ability to unionise”.

They also called for an end to temporary visa schemes which they said put migrant workers at risk of exploitation and abuse; urged a separation between immigration enforcement and labour inspectorates to “ensure everyone can safely report abuse and exploitation”; and called on employers not to assist the Home Office with immigration raids.

A JCWI spokesperson said: “Every worker should be able to report abuse or mistreatment they’ve suffered on the job without fear, but this Government is currently prioritising anti-migrant hostility over exploitation-free workplaces.

“The only people this benefits are predatory bosses. Levelled-up rights for migrant workers, on the other hand, would benefit all workers.”

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