… You two really ought to try to get to know each other better.
The home secretary, John Reid, today announced restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants’ right to work in Britain after their countries join the EU in January.
Let’s see what they comprise.
Mr Reid announced a package of transitional control orders [Christ Almighty! Though I don’t think they’re what he usually means by the term] which will be reviewed in 12 months.
The toughest new restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians focus on lower-skilled workers, who would initially be able to work only in the food processing and agricultural sectors, Mr Reid said.
A quota of 19,750 places a year has been put in place for these sectors in the new measures announced by the home secretary, in a written statement to parliament.
There will also be a new Migration Advisory Council which will analyse the UK labour market – and the policies on migrant workers in other EU countries – and give guidance on whether more unskilled workers from Bulgaria or Romania are needed, and if they could benefit other economic sectors.
Mr Reid said firms outside the food processing and agriculture sectors would have to "convince the government there is a genuine labour shortage, and such schemes would be limited by quota".
And then, after this welter of control orders, quotas and a new quango to administer them to warm the cockles of Dr Reid’s heart back when he was a member of the Communist Party, reality intervenes:
There will be no special restrictions on self-employed workers, paving the way for Bulgarians and Romanians – so-called A2 nationals – to compete with the UK’s growing army of Polish plumbers.
Mr Reid said: "The terms of the accession treaty do not allow us to place restrictions on EU nationals’ rights to come here to set up a business. So the self-employed will continue to be able to work here – and in all other EU countries – if they can prove when challenged that they are genuine, and not in fact employees posing as contractors."
Which is what people have been telling him all along, and no amount of fantasies about challenging people — Your papers, pliz — to prove they’re ‘not in fact employees’ will alter it. News to me that you have to prove you’re not something; the burden of proof is normally the other way round, but maybe I just don’t get it; according to the report, ‘Mr Reid said A2 nationals working illegally would face on-the-spot fines’ (why does that not surprise me?) and it’ll certainly be interesting to see what happens the first time one of these folks decides to contest the fine and, as is anyone’s right, puts the prosecution to proof in the matter.
Dr Reid is also threatening employers; ‘"Employing illegal workers undercuts legitimate business and leads to exploitation. It will not be tolerated," Mr Reid said‘ — so why encourage the practice by making it difficult to hire workers legitimately? People will come here looking for work; there’s no way of stopping them.
All you can do is encourage their exploitation by criminalising this; and I really don’t see the sense of making it a criminal offence for an employer to pay someone a mutually agreeable wage, at or above the legal minimum, from which he’ll deduct the appropriate tax and national insurance contributions and give them to the Treasury, and for respecting all relevant legislation concerning health and safety, maximum working hours and so forth.
Technorati tags: EU, John Reid, Foreign Workers