29/08/2011 - Immigration Caps: The Double Whammy!

The Conservative Party made great play in the last General Election about how it was going to deal with two inter-connected public concerns: the flow of cheap labour into the UK and the net increase in immigration. It now transpires that under the Coalition over half of new jobs went to migrant workers!

They could have also promised to address the flow of jobs out of the UK to cheap labour economies but that would have struck at the heart of multinational capital and at some of their donors!

Their solution was an 'immigration cap' which, so they claim, would reduce net migration as well as 'protect' jobs from migrant labour. In reality, on two grounds, the cap seems to be a 'dead duck' even before it is implemented.


The first whammy to the policy is, as Chris Humphries (CO of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills) has said, limiting the number of people from outside Europe entering the country to work would not tackle the jobs problem. This was because the vast majority of migrant workers arriving in the UK were from Europe, which the Government was powerless to do anything about. This group also typically ended up in lower-wage jobs, competing directly with British workers.

The Government has also caved into the Multinationals on 'intra-company transfers' because the latter say a limit would block the hiring of key talent. Of course, it could be that they sometimes prefer to import cheap labour rather than export their jobs to cheap labour economies or there is a genuine shortage of British workers in the so-called specialist fields i.e. health, science and IT industries. Even if the latter is true, it highlights the paucity of UK training in such fields and keeps British workers in lower paid jobs competing with (Eastern) European labour!

The second whammy is that the other promise to dramatically reduce net migration looks likely to fail too, as numbers are either due to EU migrants which can't be stopped, according to EU rules, or non-EU migrants entering the UK as students or relatives of existing migrants which would be an about turn in policy. For example, the PM David Cameron made an extraordinary statement to students in China that the rise in English tuition fees will help maintain foreign student levels!

Of course, regardless of the economic concerns Multinationals ignore the UK concerns over social provisions e.g. housing or social integration (or lack of it). Work & Pension Secretary Duncan-Smith's hollow plea to industry to employ more British workers has, predictably, fallen on deaf ears. More drastic action is require

The Solidarity Trade Union suggests that whilst we remain part of the EU we must insist that there are caps upon migrant labour within the EU especially from Eastern Europe.

Solidarity also suggests that intra-company transfers be strictly limited, that no-one be allowed in whose work could be carried out by British workers (remember the Total Lindsey Refinery strikes) and long term we must invest in home grown students to meet skill needs not go for a 'quick fix' by importing such specialists.

Of course, the Coalition could follow these suggestions but we won't be holding our breath!

Contact: Solidarity General Secretary, Patrick Harrington on 07794 486858 or [email protected] &

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