STUC calls on Scottish Government and employers to step up for migrant workers ahead of Brexit

April 14th 2019

The STUC has collected testimonies from a range of migrant workers and found that, while there is consensus on the need to attract migrants to Scotland, employers need to step up for migrant staff facing hostility in the workplace and uncertainty ahead of Brexit.

Grahame Smith STUC General Secretary said:

“As the STUC’s 122nd Annual Congress begins this week, we are calling for employers and Scottish Government to step up for migrant workers with the impact of Brexit and a tightening Labour market. The first step would be for employers to recognise unions and work with us to make the workplace a genuinely welcoming and positive place for all employees.

“Unions have worked hard on integration by ensuring migrant workers are rostered on with non-migrant workers and have offered free language and other courses to provide space for socialising and learning together. There is much more we can do with employer and government support.

“Much has been done to promote Scotland as a ‘welcoming’ country for migrants but we need to do more to improve their working lives here. As the labour market tightens and Brexit continues to dominate headlines, wages need to be higher in care, hospitality and agriculture, benefiting native and migrant workers alike.

Case Studies

Eleni (not her real name) is originally from Greece and has worked in Scotland since August 2017. Eleni studied social work in Greece but came here as a care assistant. Eleni has experienced xenophobia in the workplace and stated, “I think sometimes people were a bit aggressive because I was a foreigner. They told me they don’t like Polish people. They ask where I’m from and how long I’m here for and if I claim benefits. It’s always very patronising.”

Sofi Taylor has worked in Scotland’s health and care sectors for decades. Sofi qualified as a nurse in Scotland in 1973 and has since worked for NHS, social work and voluntary groups. She has been active in the trade union movement for over 20 years. Sofi believes that the care sector will suffer post Brexit, and stressed the need for higher wages to retain staff, “In the health and care sector, our skills and humanity are exploited. This is more true of migrant workers who are squeezed for everything they can give. If we want to attract people to our county and services, then they need to be paid well.”

Arek, from Poland, has worked in Scotland for ten years, primarily in the hospitality sector. Arek has just moved to work in a restaurant, where he states that 80% of the staff there are not native Scots. Arek has joined a union, and stated, “I think they thought that because I was Polish, I wouldn’t know my rights and would be an easy target. However, I had joined Unite Hospitality branch by then and got support to challenge the employer by my union rep.”

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