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UK – Labour to ban foreigner-only shifts

21 October 2013

Labour has announced that it will ban shifts to which only foreigners currently have access as it seeks to shift the immigration debate away from benefit tourism and towards the way in which British people can be locked out of the UK labour market, reports the Guardian.

Labour claims that some recruitment agencies are hiring only foreign workers for specific shifts; such as Ukrainians for strawberry picking, without even offering the chance of work to UK citizens.

In a wide-ranging package cracking down on the exploitation of foreign workers and curbing unlawful immigration, Labour also plans to raise the minimum penalty for illegally employing foreign workers to £10,000. Fines currently can be as low as £3,300.

The party has announced that it will also call for an end to employers exploiting foreign workers by paying them the minimum wage, but then charging them extortionate amounts for accommodation.

Labour said the bulk of foreign migrants were coming to the UK not to be benefit tourists, the focus of the government's immigration bill this week, but to seek work, often at exploitative wage levels, so driving down incomes across the economy.

The plans, Labour claimed, were the first serious attempt by any party to deal with some of the challenges posed by the exploitation of low-skilled migrants, which can undermine local wages and jobs as well as challenge integration.

The proposals are being tabled by the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, ahead of Tuesday's second reading of the immigration bill.

Labour will also set out measures to give local councils power to enforce the minimum wage, extend the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to the construction industry, and make it illegal for recruitment agencies to target and recruit foreign workers.

All inspection visits of organisations entitled to sponsor full foreign student visas will be unannounced. At present only 30% of visits are unannounced.

Labour would also close a loophole that allows tens of thousands of students to visit the UK without a certificate of acceptance to study. The UK Border Agency has expressed concern that many of these student visitors are working, not studying.

The Cooper proposals would also require large companies hiring tier-two skilled workers – skilled jobs that cannot be filled by a worker in Britain – to take on apprentices. At the Labour conference in September, Ed Miliband announced that it would be a requirement for some firms seeking to hire foreign workers to take on such apprentices. Only 4% to 8 % of UK firms currently offer apprenticeships.

The Conservatives have suggested that the proposal may be discriminatory and breach EU law if the requirement is for firms to hire only UK apprentices.

Ms Cooper said: "The government is failing to address the exploitation of low-skilled immigration in the labour market. Nor do they have any serious strategy for tackling illegal immigration. That's why we are setting out sensible and practical policies, instead of the Tory government approach of resorting to ineffective and offensive ad vans, gimmicks or incorrect text messages to people who have lived here for 30 years.”

"At a time when there is real pressure from a cost-of-living crisis, people are really concerned that low-skilled immigration is being exploited to undercut wages."

This announcement comes as a Worcester-based recruiter has hit out at local workers for failing to apply for 50 unskilled minimum wage vacancies advertised by his recruitment firm. With more than 2,000 local people unemployed, recruitment agency owner Danny James branded local job seekers lazy, reports the Daily Mail.   

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