The government’s latest immigration policy is slammed as ‘a disaster for every worker’

Sajid Javid
Chris Jarvis

On December 19, the government announced its immigration white paper. This laid out a plan for immigration after Brexit.

But it didn’t take long before people started condemning the plan. Already, it has been described by The Canary as “racist and classist” and by Nicola Sturgeon as “an act of vandalism on the Scottish economy and public services“.

And now the Trades Union Congress (TUC), representing more than five million workers, has slammed the white paper too.

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“A disaster for every worker”

In a blog, TUC policy officer Rosa Crawford hit out at the impact the new immigration scheme will have on workers. Crawford alleged that the policy will be “a disaster for every worker”.

Pulling no punches, she wrote:

Theresa May’s vision for a post-Brexit immigration system is a danger to all workers – wherever they’re from.

She continued:

We think these plans pose a clear risk of increased exploitation, undercutting, division and discrimination in the workplace.

These criticisms are based on a number of elements of the new policy.

Proposed rules on ‘low-skilled’ workers from overseas would see them only able to access a 12-month, non-extendable visa. People on these visas will be unable to claim benefits, and will also be restricted from settling in the UK.

This will put such workers in a very uncertain position. Employees are normally not allowed to dispute dismissals unless they have been employed for longer than two years. The new plans will effectively mean that employers will be able to fire so-called ‘low-skilled’ workers from other countries without reason. Anyone dismissed in this way will then be unable to access benefits.

This will make negotiating for better pay and conditions extremely difficult. Crawford explained this:

allowing employers to take on workers in low-skilled jobs on temporary contracts will give bad bosses a permanent supply of exploitable labour – increasing the risk of abuse that many migrant workers on precarious contracts already face.

She then went further:

those on tied visas often can’t leave abusive employers without losing their legal status in the country

Workers united

The TUC’s intervention takes a strong position in arguing that the rights of domestic and international workers are linked. And as much of the public debate on immigration is focused on playing UK and overseas workers off against each other, this is extremely important.

Crawford made this point not only in her criticism of the immigration white paper, but also in explaining the TUC’s call for post-Brexit policies. First, she called for the government to:

Stop playing poker with people’s lives and guarantee all EEA citizens the right to remain in the UK with full rights after Brexit, even if there’s no deal between the UK and EU.

And then she continued by calling for workers’ rights guarantees in the final Brexit deal. She called on the government to:

Secure a Brexit deal that ensures workers in the UK continue to be covered by EU employment rights


The immigration white paper comes in the middle of the government’s disastrous handling of Brexit. And so many people are already condemning it. The mass of opposition could mean the government’s latest immigration plan is dead in the water before the UK even leaves the EU.

Featured image via Republic of Korea – Flickr.

Get involved

  • Write to your MP and share your views on the immigration white paper.
  • Read more articles on immigration.

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