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Why the new points-based immigration system threatens everyone's rights at work

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Government plans for new restrictions on migrant workers will make it easier for bad bosses to undercut and exploit everyone who works.

The best way to stop exploitation and undercutting at work is to pay everyone the same rate for the job and give them the same workplace rights, regardless of immigration status.

1 in 9 workers are on temporary, insecure contracts in the UK today, and over 5 million people are paid below a living wage.

It’s clear that work isn’t working for too many people.

The government could tackle the root causes of this problem by boosting pay, banning zero-hours contracts, and giving more workers a right to speak up at work through a union.

But instead it wants to place new restrictions on migrant workers, rather than focusing on the bosses who exploit them.

Exploitation and undercutting will rise

Under new plans published this morning, EU workers would need to apply for visas to work in the UK after Brexit.

The only possibility for people to take up lower skilled jobs would be to apply for short term ‘youth mobility’ visas or ‘seasonal agricultural’ visas.

These plans would make it easier for employers to exploit migrant workers on insecure contracts and use them to undercut others, as well as increasing discrimination against BME communities.

When we looked at short term visa schemes in Australia and Canada in our report last year, we found that workers on temporary visas are unlikely to leave bad employers or report abuse to the authorities out of fear they risk losing their immigration status and becoming undocumented.

Undocumented workers have almost no ability to claim employment rights in the UK.

So introducing a system like this in the UK will make it easier for employers to use migrant workers to undercut others, driving down pay and conditions for all.

Risking another Windrush

The Tory plans for the new visa system for EU citizens will also see the introduction of more document checks across society.

This risks another Windrush scandal where people are denied access to employment, healthcare and housing if there are doubts about their documents.

We know BME people are particularly likely to be denied access to these vital services because they are more likely to face questions about their immigration status.

The government’s plans will increase the discrimination that BME communities face even further.

Millions could lose legal status

Disgracefully, the Tory government has also failed to guarantee the security of EU citizens in the UK once the transition period ends at the end of December.

This could mean millions of EU citizens in this country lose their legal status and their ability to claim rights at work, as well as access to healthcare and housing.

Instead of additional visa restrictions for EU citizens and more document checks, we need a system that ensures all workers’ rights are respected and everyone has access to healthcare, housing and employment.

We are calling for parties to guarantee all EU citizens in the UK the permanent right to remain – with evidence to prove it.

Collective agreements key to a fair deal for all

To stop exploitation and undercutting, we need trade union collective agreements with employers that guarantee good conditions for all.

As we show in this video, in workplaces such as in the BMW factory in Cowley where there are collective agreements that cover UK workers and migrant workers, all workers receive decent treatment and good pay.

The first step a government serious about tackling labour market exploitation should take is to ban zero-hours contracts.

And new rights so that more workers can bargain through their unions for fair pay and conditions, in their workplaces and across industries is the best way to deliver the step change we need in conditions at work.

Trade unions are clear: instead of hostility, discrimination and worker insecurity, we need to make sure that everyone at work has the same pay and rights.

That’s the best way to get decent work for everyone.

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