Monday, November 29, 2010

EU migration doesn't have to mean a raw deal for British workers

Gloria De Piero was right on last week's Question Time; there are ways of protecting British workers from being undercut by cheaper labour from within the EU. Nigel Farage predictably brayed that we have no power over migrants from places like Poland and Latvia coming to the UK and doing a job for less than a British person, but we do.

One of the best parts of being a member of the EU is freedom of movement, a right that many Brits take advantage of, whether it's studying in Berlin, working in Paris or retiring to the Spanish coast. However with this advantage comes problems, and it is clearly unacceptable that workers hired in other EU countries and then sent to the UK can put collective agreements and established terms and conditions at risk.

There is already European legislation which is meant to stop this from happening. The Posted Workers Directive says that companies are allowed to employ their own staff on projects in other EU countries, as long as this is for a limited time and the company abides by local working conditions. However, after a series of controversial decisions by the European Court of Justice the legislation has resulted in companies treating migrant workers as they would be in their home country, and local workers feeling they have been undercut.

We need to revise this legislation to make sure British workers are not excluded and EU workers are not exploited. To do this we need the support of the governments of the Member States, and the support of the Commission, which after consistent pressure from Labour MEPs and our allies looks more and more likely. It is also something Ed Miliband prioritised in his first speech as leader. We need constructive co-operation with Europe to solve problems like this, and UKIP's brand of ignorant Europhobia only hinders British interests in Europe.

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