Scottish Migrants Network Conference at STUC

SMN website

Workers Rights are Migrant Rights!

Scottish Migrants Network Hosts Conference at STUC

As the recession begins to bite across Scotland it is vital that all workers, including migrants, are aware of their rights at work. The Scottish Migrants Network (SMN) sponsored a half-day conference for migrant workers and support organisations in Scotland to share policy and practice five years after accession. The conference saw the launch of a new poster campaign to raise awareness of basic employment rights for migrant workers. Continue reading


Website for Portuguese workers in UK

The TUC has launched a new Portuguese language website to support the large number of Portuguese workers in the UK.

The website explains the rights workers can expect at work, from the national minimum wage (NMW) and working time, through to holiday entitlement and sick pay.

The website – launched with the Citizens Advice service (CAB) and Portuguese union Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses (CGTP) – also contains information about social issues such as housing and health, and guidance about what living and working in the UK is really like.

Source: Trades Union Congress – Newsroom.

Female migrant workers and the minimum wage

Report from the TUC of new research from COMPAS:

New TUC research published today (Monday 11 Aug 08) reveals that female migrant workers may be more likely than any other group to be paid less than the national minimum wage (NMW).

Reports of the abuse of migrant workers have become increasingly common and the research – commissioned by the TUC’s Commission on Vulnerable Employment and carried out by the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford – aimed to investigate the available information to uncover the reality of working life for migrant workers.

COMPAS reviewed the pay, working hours, type of work and accommodation of recent migrant workers who have been living and working in the UK for less than 10 years, in the West Midlands and in the East of England/East Midlands (both areas where there has been high levels of recent migration). National information about migrant workers, such as the Government’s Labour Force Survey (LFS), was also included in the report.

The report found that migrant workers were much more likely to experience problems at work, and highlighted a number of worrying trends:

  • Recent migrants work longer hours per week than most other workers – for example 55 per cent of recent migrants work 31-48 hours per week, and 15.4 per cent work more than 48 hours per week, compared to 48.3 per cent and 13 per cent of workers generally.
  • Migrant workers are more likely to be working as temps or in insecure work (for example not having a written contract) than any other workers.
  • Recent migrant workers are more than twice as likely as other workers to be earning less than the appropriate NMW for their age.
  • Women who are recent migrants to the UK are 1.5 times more likely than male migrant workers to be paid less than the NMW.
  • Women who migrate to work in the UK therefore face a disproportionate risk of being illegally underpaid – with around 35,000 denied the NMW.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

‘The rogue employers who underpay the NMW deserve zero tolerance. The NMW is making a real difference to the lives of many low paid migrant workers, and we must continue to crack down on those mean bosses not paying their staff the legal wage to which they are entitled.

‘The TUC’s Commission on Vulnerable Employment heard many complaints from migrant workers, including excessively long hours, no contract and a complete lack of health and safety training.

‘Belonging to a trade union is the best form of defence a worker can have against exploitative bosses. UK unions are stepping up their efforts to organise migrant workers to stop employers from using a poor grasp of English or ignorance of UK employment law as an excuse to treat people badly.’

TUC response to BERR Vulnerable Workers Forum report

Responding to the Department for Business (BERR) Vulnerable Workers Forum report today (05/08/08), TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

‘This provides a welcome response to the TUC’s Commission on Vulnerable Employment. As the TUC’s Commission recommended, the Government has decided that its internal workings need to be significantly streamlined if they are to offer genuine help to vulnerable workers. But an opportunity has been missed to address the legal and regulatory flaws which keep two million workers in conditions which shame a modern economy.

‘The Government is acting on important recommendations that the TUC has made. Enforcement agencies such as the Health and Safety Executive and the minimum wage enforcement unit of HMRC will be allowed to share data; there will be a single telephone access point for vulnerable workers to raise problems; and there will be a new body to co-ordinate the work of the agencies – although it is disappointing that it will have no power to make recommendations new rights or policy changes. Ministers have accepted the need for an information and awareness campaign for workers and employers on basic rights at work.

‘With new EU moves on agency working and working time and changes on migrant domestic worker visas, these are worthwhile changes won by union campaigning that will make a real difference to many vulnerable workers whose employers are breaking employment law. But there are also gaps.

‘It is disappointing that ministers are not prepared to extend the coverage of the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority (GLA) to cover other vulnerable sectors such as construction, care and hospitality. The GLA is cleaning up the agriculture and food sectors it covers, and good employers in those sectors have welcomed the assurance that they will not be undercut by the rogue agencies and gangmasters.

‘Nor has the Government been prepared to examine the legal loophole that deprives many workers from gaining the legal status of an employee, which stops their entitlement to many rights and allows an employer to sack them with no comeback if they attempt to enforce the limited rights they enjoy.

‘But this package represents progress in our campaign for better protection for vulnerable workers. We will carefully monitor its development, and its publication will encourage unions to step up the campaign for the full implementation of the recommendations from the Commission on Vulnerable Employment.’

Click here for more info on the BERR site, or here to download the full BERR report pdf here…

Listening to migrant workers at Holyrood

Lunchtime meeting, Committee Room 4 of the Scottish Parliament
Wednesday 18 June 2008

read a report of the meeting below, or download in pdf format from Migrant Rights Network

The Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN) in conjunction with UNISON Overseas Nurses Network (ONN) and the STUC held a meeting in the Scottish Parliament, with the aim of giving MSPs the opportunity to hear the views and experiences of migrant workers who are living and working in Scotland. The meeting, which saw the participation of around 37 migrants from 16 different countries (Philippines, Australia, USA, Brazil, Poland, Russia, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, India, China, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana, Malaysia) along with representatives from NGOs and trade unionists, was also an opportunity for Unison to launch the ‘Minimum Standard Charter for Migrant Workers’.

The meeting was introduced by the Chair Mary Senior, STUC assistant secretary, who thanked all the people present, particularly the organisers and the migrants. She outlined the important role played by migrant workers in the British society and the need to protect their rights and make sure they are not exploited. Mary Senior passed the floor to Scottish Labour MSP Marlyn Glen, who further welcomed all the attendees to the Parliament.

The focus of the meeting was the presentation of migrant workers’ own experiences in Scotland, reported through a series of short but powerful personal statements from those present. The majority of participants had been living and working in Scotland for at least 5 years, mainly employed in the public sector as nurses, or as senior care workers.

The presentations initially focused on various problems which had been encountered by migrant workers in relation to the Home Office and the UK Border Agency. A nurse from Zimbabwe, who has been working in the UK since 2003, reported that obtaining a visa to work here is now much more difficult than it used to be. Other attendees’ comments also reported the complexity of the British immigration system, illustrating the difficulties for non EU nationals in getting a visa, the length of time to submit a case to the Home Office, and the high degree of bureaucracy.

Particular concerns were reported in relation to the new Points-Based System (PBS) and its five Tiers for migrant workers. An Indian woman outlined the difficulties she had encountered in transferring from the Scottish ‘Fresh Talent’ Scheme to Tier 1 of the PBS, which had forced her to seek legal support. Other migrants reported the difficulties for those whose skills may now not be considered adequate to qualify for entry or extension of leave under the PBS. Under the PBS, for example, senior care workers may no longer qualify for renewal of leave to remain due to a reassessment of the skills content for this profession. A senior care worker from the Philippines spoke of her anxiety about the continuation of her indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

The issues faced by migrant workers were not restricted to difficulties with the Home Office. A number of participants reported that qualifications obtained in other countries are often not fully recognised in the UK by potential employers. As result many migrants find themselves unable to find work which fits their skills. Others noted they had been victims of racism and discrimination in the workplace and in some cases bullied and exploited.

There was a general agreement on the need to raise awareness among the public about the valuable contribution migrants make to the British economy, in order to avoid discriminative attitudes and xenophobia. The common sense of commitment to living in Scotland remained, despite the problems outlined by a couple of participants, including a Polish attendee, in gaining acceptance from local communities in Scotland. A Ugandan man pointed out that British society needs to respect migrants and the qualifications and abilities that they bring to the UK.

Dr Helen Crowley, from London Metropolitan University and migrant herself (originally from Australia) also took part in the discussion. She welcomed the meeting as a great opportunity for migrants overcome isolation, by sharing experiences and talking to each other about what it is like to live and work in the UK as a migrant. She also mentioned a publication she is currently working on entitled Rhythms and realities of everyday life, which has been funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and aims to foster the development of policies strengthening social cohesion and civil society.

During the meeting Dave Watson, Senior Regional Officer at UNISON, noted that in order to fight exploitation there is a need to challenge misunderstandings about migration and address unacceptable behaviour. Employers of migrant workers need to have with full information and a code of practice to be able to cope effectively with migrant workers. For this reason, he commented, Unison has decided to launch the Migrant Workers’ Employment Charter and is asking all public authorities to adopt it.

Ruth Grove-White, the Migrants’ Rights Network Policy Worker, made clear that supporting migrants’ workers rights is one of the MRN’s high priorities in promoting migrant rights across the UK. The MRN anticipates that the impact of the government’s new civil penalty enforcement regime for employers, and the ongoing roll-out of the PBS, will mean that there will continue to be the need for migrants to pursue fair and equal treatment in the UK. A current MRN research project, ‘Papers Please’, is examining the implementation of UKBA fines for employers found employing undocumented migrant workers. As a follow-up to the research the MRN will aim to hold a roundtable in Scotland in the autumn of 2008, and it is hoped that some migrant workers will attend and share their experiences.

At the end of meeting the chair Mary Senior summed up the key points emerged from the discussion and reported that the MSP Marlyn Glen intended to lodge a motion in the Scottish Parliament to bring the issues facing migrant workers at the forefront of the political debate. Marlyn Glen’s motion was lodged in the Scottish Parliament on the 20th of June, 2008 and is available on the SP website. It has so far attracted 10 supporters from three different parties.

Further reading:

UNISON Scotland (2008) Minimum Standards Charter. A Voluntary Code of Practice on Employing Migrant and European Workers, and also a briefing paper

JRF/ London Metropolitan University (2008) Rhythms and Realities of Everyday Life: Improving our understanding of the relationship between recent immigration and social cohesion

MRN/Oxfam (2008) Report on the workshop “Supporting the employment rights of migrant workers”,

Health and Safety at work: resources for migrants

Earlier this year, the Health and Safety Executive launched a new website aimed at workers from overseas and their employers, at

The HSE migrant workers website is designed to provide essential information, guidance and advice on workplace health and safety for workers from overseas and their employers. The web pages have been specifically developed to explain how health and safety law protects those working here from overseas. They also provide essential guidance on the roles and responsibilities of employers and workers under British health and safety law. Some parts of the site are available in several languages.

In 2004, HSE  published, jointly with the Trades Union Congress (TUC), a safety leaflet translated into 19 different languages. The leaflet – ‘Your health, your safety: A guide for workers’ – provides information about safety rights at work, the level of safety training that workers should expect from their employers, and who they should complain to if they believe their safety is being compromised by poor workplace practices. Copies of the leaflet can be accessed at the TUC website by clicking here or here at the HSE website

And HSE has also recently produced a pocket card aimed at overseas workers: ‘Working in the UK from overseas? – Your health and safety at work in agriculture and food processing’ . This provides basic and essential information on workers’ rights and responsibilities under UK health and safety legislation – the information applies to all industries, not just agriculture and food processing. It has been translated into several different languages. Click here for more info, or here to download the card in pdf format

UNISON launches Migrant Workers Employment Charter

Unison press release, 17 June 2008:

UNISON launches migrant workers’ charter to challenge rogue employers.

Scotland’s largest public service union, UNISON, will tomorrow (Wednesday 18 June 08) take a number of migrant worker members to the Scottish Parliament to talk to MSPs, and to launch a Migrant Workers’ Charter, outlining a range of ‘good practice’ for employers to follow. The union is planning to campaign to get organisations who employ migrant staff, to sign-up to the charter. Click here for a pdf of the charter

The move is the latest in a union wide campaign to avoid exploitation of this vulnerable group of workers.

Around 40 migrant workers from right across the globe will meet in Edinburgh tomorrow, June 18th 2008,  to speak to MSPs and explain the problems they face when coming to Scotland to work. Present will be Sofi Taylor (UNISON National Executive), Mary Senior (AGS – STUC) and Ruth Grove-White (Migrant Rights Network) plus migrant workers from 14 countries from Kenya to the Philippines. You are welcome to attend.

Sofi Taylor, from UNISON’s NEC and the founder of the union’s pioneering Overseas Nurses Network, said

“Migrant workers are vital to the continued operation of a large number of Scotland’s industries and services – from food production to care homes. They too often also face exploitation and discrimination. We have arranged this event so that MSPs can hear from the people themselves what they face , and so we can launch a set of guidelines that employers can sign-up to help these key workers.”

In addition the UNISON Annual Conference in Bournemouth is today (17/06/08 ) debating a motion on migrant workers. Greg Thompson, UNISON’s National Development Manager for migrant workers, said:

“Migrant workers make a very positive contribution to the fabric of the UK’s society and economy, and it is high time this was recognised. Many local services would crumble without staff from abroad, and anyone who seeks to hide this fact panders to the agenda of backward looking critics. This ultimately plays into the hands of racists.

“The motions we will debate at conference are part of a union wide campaign to ensure that we are doing all that we can to protect this vulnerable group, and will encourage migrant workers to be active in all areas of UNISON.”

The Charter, which will be launched covers a wide range of issues. It seeks to use the Scottish public sector to set the standard in the treatment of migrant workers, and put pressure on other employers.

Dave Watson (UNISON’s Scottish organiser said

“The Scottish Government and the wider public sector can lead the way in providing a positive image of Scotland for migrant workers, by using their powers as employers and procurers of goods and services to promote best practice.”


Notes to editors: The Charter commits employers to sign up to treat migrant workers fairly – offering them the same pay and conditions as indigenous workers, committing to assist with proper travel and housing needs without exploitation, and assisting workers to overcome language and cultural difficulties. It is available from Chris Bartter (below).

For more information and to download the Charter, go to the Unison Scotland website