A new report by the TUC has answers that help migrants and workers
Nearly three quarters of people who voted to leave the EU said migration was one of their top three concerns, in a TUC poll taken days after the referendum.
85 per cent said that it’s essential to reduce the number of migrants coming to Britain. 44 per cent of Remain voters also wanted immigration reduced.
However, two thirds of voters agreed with the statement that ‘as long as the system is well managed, immigration can be good for Britain’, including a majority of Leave voters.
A TUC report published today, Managing migration better for Britain, looks at what the government could do now – before we leave the EU – to manage migration better and win more public support.
Some of these measures are policies the TUC has called for repeatedly. We hope politicians are now listening.
The idea of restoring the Migration Impact Fund is now widely shared. But our concern is that the fund should be considerably larger than it was under Gordon Brown, and should give local people a say over the funding of local services, like schools, hospitals and GP surgeries. It should also pay for the extra housing needs of a growing population.
We want to make sure that the economic benefits of migration that politicians and economists talk about actually filter through to the people who need better services and more homes.
We also want to press the case for an economy that prevents both exploitation of migrants and undercutting of the existing workforce.
Bad bosses will use any opportunity to divide working people if they can make a fast buck out of it. That’s what’s behind the lower rate for young people of the so-called National Living Wage, and it’s what they tried when women entered the labour force in greater numbers.
The appropriate response is to ensure equal pay for people doing the same job in the same place, closing the loopholes that allow exploitation and undercutting, and toughening up the enforcement of such rules.
Restoring collective bargaining where unions can recruit, and introducing modern wages councils where that doesn’t happen also have a part to play.
The TUC is also advocating a bigger Border Force, with a remit to prevent trafficking and exploitation, to take the strain of enforcing migration laws off employers, landlords, education and health professionals.
As the Byron Burgers experience shows, turning private people into part of the Border Force leads to all sorts of abuses, as well as giving people roles they are uncomfortable with and unprepared for.
There are a lot of proposals in the paper which would help manage migration better, for migrants as well as the local population.
One that is more urgent than most is to guarantee that people from other EU countries who have been living and working in the UK should be allowed to stay. Immediately after the referendum, our polling showed that 64 per cent of voters wanted to recognise their commitment to the UK, and only 28 per cent of Leave voters disagreed.
Making the migration system work better would not only improve people’s working lives and communities, it would rebuild trust. Three quarters of Leave voters felt that the Remain campaign dismissed legitimate concerns about immigration, but so too did nearly a third of Remain voters.
Engaging with the TUC’s proposals for managing migration would be an important way for politicians to demonstrate that they get it, and are taking people’s views seriously.
That’s more urgent than deciding what our relationship with the EU should be after Brexit: we’ve got to start bringing people together.
Owen Tudor is head of European Union and International Relations for the TUCSign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.