Why weaning Britain off foreign workers could come at a high price


Weaning Britain off immigrant workers will come at a price, bosses warn.

Rose Carey, a partner at high-end law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, says changes to the salary threshold for most skilled workers, which rose from around £26,000 to £38,700 in April, may have forced some companies she works with to move operations to Poland.

One of her clients is an international manufacturing company with factories in the North of England, the US and Poland. It pays £14 an hour. Staff need to be trained on full pay for a year to be left alone with the machinery.

“They’re really struggling to recruit [for UK jobs],” Carey says. “They don’t get that many applications from local workers and the ones that do apply don’t stay.

“They are looking at whether they need to start making more things in the Polish factory instead.”

Many of the current staff are Poles and Romanians with engineering backgrounds, but that pool is dwindling after Brexit.

Current salaries are £2 an hour below the new work visa salary threshold. However, bringing pay into line with the new threshold would be a significant cost as the company would also need to increase salaries for British staff to avoid employment law issues.

Another client – a smokery with several UK sites – risks moving operations to Poland if salary thresholds don’t come down. If both these clients relocate, around 1,000 jobs – including many held by British workers – would be lost.

Work visas often become a focus of debates around immigration because of the perception that foreign workers are taking jobs that would otherwise be available to Britons.

However, Madeleine Sumption at the Migration Observatory in Oxford says: “What we know from the research, the most likely outcome is that there will just be fewer of those jobs.”

Sumption adds: “Whilst some of the biggest policy issues on migration are about visa policy, legal migration towards students and workers and so forth, we don’t see massive differences between Labour and the Conservatives on those issues.”

Both parties want to call time on the era of seemingly unfettered immigration.

But after decades of large numbers of new arrivals, and with an economy hooked on immigration, dealing with the economic fallout from such a crackdown may prove a difficult pill to swallow for both Starmer and Sunak.


Source link