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Accession plus two

Posted by Richard Monday, May 01, 2006 ,

Migrant workers on a British farmToday, two years ago, the EU fifteen became twenty-five – adding ten more states to the evil empire, eight of them former satellites of the USSR.

In the spirit of friendship and solidarity, the bulk of the existing member states had already decided to refuse to open their jobs markets to the new entrants, the exception being Britain, Ireland and Sweden.

Now, to celebrate the anniversary of "Accession Day", the Independent reports on a survey which tells us that employers prefer workers from new EU states to "lazy" Britons.

As if we didn't already know, the paper informs us that migrant workers from the new states are filling jobs that indigenous UK workers are not prepared to do, but for much lower wages.

This is according to "new research" by the Europhile Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which claims that three quarters of the employers it interviewed said they believed enlargement had been good for business.

Its full survey, of 1,000 migrants and employers, found that employers used highly qualified migrant workers for low-skilled and low-waged work, especially in the building, hospitality and agricultural sectors. The employers found migrant workers “reliable” compared with UK workers, some of whom were described as "lazy".

The reason given is that migrant workers were prepared to tolerate low-skilled work and poor conditions because the pay was significantly better than the wages in their own countries. "Sometimes they put up with negative aspects of their jobs in order to learn English or because conditions were only temporary," the Foundation said, while some employers admitted to “bending the rules” on employment law.

Needless to say, the TUC is unhappy. Its spokesman said: "This survey confirms that migrants workers are exploited in a number of sectors. Unions need to step up their recruitment and government must do more to enforce legal standards."

Furthermore, not a few British workers are unhappy. My colleague in Somerset reports that two of the largest factories in his district are now employing exclusively Polish workforces, while a third factory – newly built only five years ago – is being demolished after the operation moved to Poland.

Although Finland, Spain and Portugal, and also Greece are now to lift restrictions, with the British experience in mind, France, Germany and Austria are among countries keeping them in place.

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