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Government to restrict Romanian and Bulgarian migrants

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The government has announced it is to impose restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian workers coming to the UK.

Romania and Bulgaria are set to become members of the EU on 1 January 2007. In the past, the UK has not imposed entry restrictions on workers from other EU countries but that is now to change.

Home secretary John Reid told the House of Commons that Romanians and Bulgarians wishing to work in the UK would require a work authorisation document.

“To get such a document they will need to have passed the tests to get onto the highly skilled migrant programme, have secured a work permit for a skilled job, proved they are a student at a reputable college, or got a place in the quota for agriculture or food processing,” he said.

It will be an offence punishable by an on-the-spot fine for a Romanian or a Bulgarian to work without the authorisation document and companies employing non-authorised workers will be subject to a “heavy fine”.

The home secretary added: “There will be an information campaign for employers, backed up by a toolkit and helpline, to ensure that firms are aware of the rules and their responsibilities. Employers and employees must be clear that they have a duty to play by these rules or suffer the consequences.”

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) welcomed the government’s stance. Susan Anderson, CBI director of human resources policy, said: “Migrant labour is vital to the UK. Recent migrant workers from central Europe have brought with them much-needed skills and hard work, to the benefit of our economy.

“The number of these workers coming to the UK has far exceeded expectations, though, so it is right to take a measured approach and apply temporary restrictions on Romania and Bulgaria.

“Under the Government’s plans, businesses with a provable need for skilled migrant workers will still be able to hire staff from Romania and Bulgaria, and sectors that are heavily reliant on seasonal migrant workers will be able to source unskilled labour.”

But the Trades Union Congress (TUC) was not so welcoming. General secretary Brendan Barber said: “The announcement runs the risk of having the opposite effect of that which is intended.

“This is because the UK government cannot stop the free movement of new EU citizens, nor can it prevent them working as self-employed once they are here.

“Bogus self-employment and cash-in-hand jobs are two of the commonest ways that workers are exploited in the UK. Undercutting legal rights such as the minimum wage drives down wages and conditions for all workers, and leads to tax evasion by both workers and their bosses.

“The right response to EU enlargement is properly enforced rights that prevent the exploitation of anyone working in the UK, not measures that are more likely to increase the bad treatment of workers.”

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