Worker Registration Scheme: ‘abuse of human rights’

More questions, more calls for it’s abolition, but no answers yet on the WRS

The MP for Glasgow South West has submitted a written question as to the future of the WRS, on behalf of a Glasgow Polish residents association. We await a response from the Minister.

Meanwhile, the Lords have been asking questions, amid evidence that the scheme leads to human rights abuses. Continue reading


EU sanctions against employers of undocumented migrants

New European Union rules aim to crackdown on employers who expolit undocumented migrant workers, but migrant rights groups are worried that the imminent legislation retains the focus on the status of the migrant, rather than the exploitation by the employer.

Under the Employers Sanctions Directive, employers hiring undeclared workers would face sanctions, including fines and paying back wages to their workers amounting to “at least the wage provided for by the applicable laws on minimum wages, collective agreements or practices in the relevant occupational branches.” Continue reading

East European migrant workers face ‘modern slavery’

Migrant workers from the EU’s Eastern member states face systematic discrimination when moving to work in ‘old Europe’, according to a new report presented on Monday 15 September at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels (CEPS).

Discrimination against those workers is “a pan-European phenomenon,” says Professor Carby Hall, the author of the report, who cited abuses ranging from bureaucratic hurdles to actual hate crimes, and criticised EU countries for their “lack of will” to eliminate discrimination.

Click to download report (pdf) – The Treatment of Polish and other A8 economic migrants in the European Union member states – from the website of Poland’s Commision for Civil Rights Protection.

More info in source article:

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.’

Vulnerable Worker Enforcement Forum – final report

Vulnerable Worker Enforcement Forum – Final report and Government Conclusions

Membership of the Vulnerable Worker Enforcement Forum comprised the TUC and other unions, government enforcement bodies, Citizens Advice and business representatives.

The Forum has discussed the nature and extent of employment rights abuses being encountered by vulnerable workers, including migrants. It has looked at the barriers to workers taking action to assert or to enforce those rights, including a lack of awareness of rights. The Forum has also looked at migrant worker vulnerability and the involvement of advisers and other third parties in advising workers and reporting suspicions of abuse.

Breaches of employment rights highlighted by Forum members included:

  • No written terms of agreement
  • Workers being paid below the minimum wage, and not being paid for all the hours worked
  • Unauthorised deductions being made from waages
  • Wages and holiday pay owed not being paid after leaving a job
  • Inadequate rest breaks being given
  • Excessive hours
  • Workers not being provided with safety equipment
  • The provision of sub-standard “tied” accommodation

The report concludes that Vulnerable workers (and those who are on the verge of entering potentially vulnerable employment) need to have an awareness of their employment rights to know when they are being abused. They need to know what to do when they suspect that these rights are being breached and they need to be encouraged to complain about their employer where they have just cause.

To address these issues, government will:

  • Run a significant, sustained campaign with delivery partners to raise awareness of basic employment rights and encourage the reporting of abuses. The campaign will start this year.
  • Key elements of the campaign will be the promotion of a single enforcement helpline, an enhanced basic rights section on , significantly more publicity for the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, publicity for the new national minimum wage penalties and “fair arrears” provisions (being legislated on through the current Employment Bill), and more awareness-raising work with migrant workers – both here in the UK and in those countries from which most workers come.
  • The campaign will also seek to address worker fears of reporting abuses by stressing the confidentiality of the complaints process, and existing whistleblower protections. It will draw on experience and evaluation of the NMW campaign run over the last year.
  • Look at the case for building on the work undertaken by the Vulnerable Worker pilot in Birmingham which has been providing employment rights awareness training to year 10 pupils in schools in Birmingham with high proportions of early leavers.
  • Look at the possibilities for incorporating basic employment rights training in  ‘Welfare to work’ programmes, building on trials undertaken as part of BERR’s vulnerable worker pilots.

For full information and to download the report, go the BERR website

The Situation of the Roma Community in Glasgow

Facing increased hardship, racism and discrimination in Central and Eastern Europe since the fall of the state socialist regimes, the Roma have fled their worsening situation in greater numbers, first as asylum seekers and later, after May 2004, as ‘new’ citizens of an enlarged European Union (EU). However, they have been met by a new wave of anti-Roma attitudes emerging in Western Europe, marked by media speculation about the consequences, real and imagined, of large scale immigration of Roma from the East.

“Disproportionately affected by poverty and discriminated against in employment,education, health care, administrative and other services, they face considerable obstacles to the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms”

This Report brings together research into the social exclusion of Roma minority groups in Europe and their challenges in migrating to Western Europe. It particularly focuses on the significant Slovak Roma community in Govanhill, Glasgow. The study examines the work of service providers, and looks at successes and challenges within broader political, social policy and cultural contexts.

University of West of Scotland. Commissioned and funded by South East Glasgow Community Health and Care Partnership and Oxfam.

The main findings of the research:

  • Governments, both at UK and Scottish level, have not only failed to play their part in safeguarding the rights of the Roma as a recognised ethnic group in Europe, but have also failed to promote and raise awareness of Roma rights within the UK.
  • Many of the problems of the Roma stem from their deliberate exclusion from citizenship in the EU countries from which they originate. This exclusion is a result of deep-rooted racism at all levels of society.
  • Given the Roma’s on-going persecution and exclusion in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, it is not unreasonable to view the Roma as a group that continue to be ‘pushed’ abroad as much as being ‘pulled’ by the promise of employment.
  • Roma are mainly in part-time, temporary employment, outwith mainstream structure as a result of their exclusion from public sector employment services and reliance on ‘gangmasters’ for work and housing. As a result of they are often unable to access the basic in-work benefits such as a contract of employment, a minimum wage, pension rights, paid holidays, maternity leave, and paid sick leave.
  • In housing, Roma are particularly vulnerable to private sector dependency due to their employment situation and consequently they experience high rents, sub-standard conditions and non-existent tenancy agreements. This leads to overcrowding as families are forced to pool their resources, evictions, and strained community relations as a result of increased noise and waste.
  • Barriers to accessing health services centre around language and culture. These barriers impact on the Roma’s ability to register with GPs and on their understanding of protocols such as booking appointments. Health care professionals have found growing levels of malnutrition amongst children, overcrowding and infestation, all of which carry with them significant public health risks.

Click here to download the report pdf

or click here to download the briefing

See also: The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation engaging in a range of activities aimed at combating anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma. The approach of the ERRC involves, in particular, strategic litigation, international advocacy, research and policy development, and training of Romani activists.

Undocumented: a life of poverty, exploitation and danger

An undercover investigation by the BBC looks at the hidden world of undocumented Punjabi migrants in London. The hidden-camera investigation (with sensationalist headlines “Migrant criminal network exposed” and “Life as an illegal immigrant”) reports that these mostly young, Punjabi men are subsisting through poorly paid, dangerous and demeaning work, and are forced to rely on “forgers, criminals and ruthless employers” to survive. They call themselves “fauji” a Punjabi term for army foot soldiers.

“This hidden community is an open secret – landlords take on tenants, employers want cheap and uncomplaining labour, while the criminals trade in people’s lives.”

17 July: The report is now followed-up with news of arrests