Examination of Witnesses

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 12th February 2019.

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Rosa Crawford:

I think this just underlines the lunacy of a policy that is about making life harder for the people living here—the workers living here—by suggesting there are additional burdens that they will have to bear, such as working longer hours, or there is the suggestion that we are always presented with, “Oh, why don’t local people want to be the ones living in caravans, five of them living in a caravan, going to pick strawberries from 5 am?” I wonder why people are not attracted to that.

As for the suggestion that there should be more burden on UK workers to do more undesirable work, working in worse conditions, rather than having an immigration policy that supports a joined-up economic and industrial strategy—that strategy is really, to us, what we need and the approach that we need to take. Anything else is essentially pitting worker against worker, saying, “UK workers should pick up the slack and we don’t want the non-EU workers”—or the EU workers now—“to come here.” To us, that is continuing the hostile environment.

What we actually need is a policy that promotes good jobs and good conditions for all workers, and a route to get the workers that we need from outside the country, when there are shortages. However, to build on the discussion earlier, the TUC is calling loudly for there to be an increase in training and in funding for that training. The cutting of the nursing bursaries and also bursaries to other allied health professions has had a really serious cost on the number of workers being trained for those professions. There is a shortfall of about 5,000 people taking up training places for nursing, and in education it has also had a big impact. In sectors such as agriculture, where employers say they face shortages, we are having no increase in funding for skills and apprenticeship training. The onus is also on employers to increase the amount of training.

This all suggests that immigration policy cannot be considered in a vacuum. It needs to be connected with a skills policy, which unions are very keen to be involved in. You are probably aware of Unionlearn. Trade unions are involved with a number of employers across the country delivering courses for thousands of people and developing those skills, but it is not happening enough. Further restrictions on migration are just a form of economic self-harm and will impact on UK workers worse and increase the anxieties that they already have.