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News: Count your immigrant workers, says Milliband

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Overseas-only employment agencies would be banned and an early-warning system set up to highlight areas where locals are "dominated" by an influx of overseas labour, under new plans proposed by Labour. 
 
Following a u-turn on immigration policy, Labour leader Ed Milliband woudl insist that firms where more than one in four staff is from overseas would have to inform local job centres of this. There would also be stricter enforcement of minimum wage laws and doubling fines to £10,000 to deter the use of cheap foreign labour. 
 
Mindful of the mockery his predecessor Gordon Brown won for pledging "British jobs for British workers", Milliband said he was making no such commitment, but added: "We need an economy which offers working people a fair crack of the whip. The problem we need to address is in those areas and sectors where local talent is locked out of opportunity."
 
Milliband admitted that Labour had been out of touch with the electorate on immigration matters in the past. "We too easily assumed those who worried about immigration were stuck in the past, unrealistic about how things could be different, even prejudiced," he said. "But Britain was experiencing the largest peacetime migration in recent history, and people’s concerns were genuine.
 
"Why didn’t we listen more? At least by the end of our time in office, we were too dazzled by globalisation and too sanguine about its price,’" he said. "By focusing too much on globalisation and migration’s impact on growth, we lost sight of who was benefiting from that growth – and the people who were being squeezed. And, to those who lost out, Labour was too quick to say ‘Like it or lump it’."
 
But he insisted that there is still a place for migrant workers, but with fewer at the lower-skilled end of the spectrum. "Of course overall numbers matter but it does also depend on who is coming in and what impact they are having," he said. "On the question of low-skilled migration, I think numbers are probably still too high and I would like to do something about it.
 
Whether Milliband’s seeming change of tack will help convince sceptics remains to be seen. “Political speeches and policies on migrant labour come and go. What remains constant is the desperate need of employers for workers with the skills and attitudes required to drive growth and performance for their organisations," said Gerwyn Davies, Public Policy Adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.  "Real solutions to the challenge of getting more British citizens into jobs won’t come in the form of quick fixes."
 
There needs to be wider culture change, ssaid Davies, which involves policy makers, education providers and employers engaging consistently and with commitment to improve the academic, technical and, crucially, the employability skills of young people. "Only by doing this do we have a chance of getting to a point where employers no longer tell us so readily that they turn to migrant labour because they prefer the skills, experience and work ethic to that they see when they recruit more locally," he added. 
 
 
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