London: Foreign workers snap up the jobs that Britons on benefit rej

Foreign workers snap up the jobs that Britons on benefit reject
by Helen Nugent, Stewart Tendler and Anna Patty

The Times (London)
November 11, 2004, Thursday

Employers are looking to immigrants for skilled, motivated staff,
report Helen Nugent, Stewart Tendler and Anna Patty

Employers are aggressively recruiting staff from other countries
because British workers lack the motivation and skills to do crucial
jobs, The Times has found.

The drive for foreign workers amounts to a side-stepping of
employment laws that forbid discrimination against the English, the
Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.

Workers from Eastern European countries that joined the EU in May and
people from India and Bangladesh are flocking to Britain to fill
vacancies in the hospitality industry, agriculture, security,
accountancy, construction and healthcare.

Between May and September, government figures released yesterday show
that there were 90,950 applicants from eight Eastern Europe and
Baltic states -the equivalent of 0.3 per cent of the British working
population -and more than 87,200 were given permission to work.
Another 3,700 were still being processed at the end of September.

Britain needed workers for 600,000 vacancies, including low-paid jobs
that were often difficult to fill.

Australians, New Zealanders and people from the Far East are also
moving to the UK and are quickly snapped up by companies desperate
for enthusiastic hard workers with proven experience.

A combination of a lack of investment in training for key industries,
a skills shortage and a desire by a large number of people to stay on
benefits has fuelled overseas recruitment, businesses claim.

Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association,
which represents the hotel, catering and leisure industry, said that
many employers in hospitality were targeting trained staff from
Poland, Hungary and Lithuania.

A visa arrangement with the Home Office, allowing up to 10,000 people
from Bangladesh, the sub-continent and the Far East to travel to
Britain for work each year, had also boosted the number of foreign
workers in restaurants and hotels, he said.

Restaurant owners and hoteliers recruit overseas staff directly from
catering colleges, often in association with specialist local

Mr Cotton said: “One of the biggest problems is that while we have a
low level of unemployment, we have millions of people claiming

“Some of these people would rather work fewer hours so they retain
their benefits.

Foreign workers are happy to work between 30 and 50 hours a week.”

Horticultural companies, including fruit and vegetable growers, are
also recruiting from across the world, including Ukraine, Armenia and
Georgia. Under a government-sponsored initiative called the Student
Agricultural Workers Scheme, pupils from outside the EU can work in
Britain for up to six months.

Last year 25,000 work cards were available, but this has been reduced
to 16,200 in anticipation of an influx of workers from the ten
accession states to the EU.

Concordia, a youth organisation, has links with agriculture
universities worldwide. Christine Lumb, its executive director, says
that there is not enough investment in agricultural colleges in
Britain, which has led to a severe skills shortage.

After yesterday’s first assessment of the Government’s registration
scheme for workers from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia,
Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, David Blunkett, the Home
Secretary, said that the policy had contributed more than £120
million to the economy.

“Our commonsense app-roach to EU enlargement has put us at a clear
advantage compared with the rest of Europe,” he told a TUC
conference. The policy had been attacked this year as “opening the
floodgates and newspapers suggested people from Eastern Europe would
be pillaging wives and daughters”, but it had worked for the benefit
of the country, Mr Blunkett said.

Poland accounted for 48,500 of the applicants and profiles of all
registered workers show that 36,500 were aged under 35.

Registered workers paid an estimated £20 million in tax and national
insurance. Of the total, 96 per cent were working fulltime.

Eighty per cent were earning between £4.50 and £5.99 an hour and the
number claiming benefits was very small.