By Bob Duncan
Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to make it harder for overseas workers to find employment in the UK in a reworking of Gordon Brown’s infamous “British jobs for British workers” speech.
In the hope of regaining key Labour seats in England which were lost to the Conservatives in 2010, Mr Miliband has said he will seek ways to “level the playing field” for British workers in the UK jobs market. In addition, he vowed that a future Labour government would introduce “maximum transitional controls” to limit migration if the EU expanded to include more countries.
He promised to bring in a number of measures designed to reduce the freedom of employers to take on foreign workers. Under these proposals, an early-warning system would be set up to highlight areas where locals are “dominated” by an influx of overseas labour and overseas-only employment agencies would be banned.
However, on BBC Scotland, Mark Sutherland of Check Match Recruitment Services claimed the proposals would be “illegal” as workers from all EU countries except Romania and Bulgaria, have an automatic right to work in the UK. He added, “I’m afraid Mr Miliband is being as naïve and stupid as Gordon Brown was when he made his British jobs for British workers statement.”
Mr Sutherland added that Ed Miliband “chooses to forget the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of Scots and English people working in France, in Germany and indeed an increasingly large number of them working in Central and Eastern Europe.”
In a speech which revealed much about the Labour Leader’s own privileged lifestyle, Mr Miliband said there was “nothing wrong with anyone employing Polish builders, Swedish childminders or French chefs”, adding “If you wanted a conservatory built for your home, you were probably better off [using foreign workers].”
Referring to his predecessor’s “bigoted woman” gaffe in 2010, he said, “Worrying about immigration, talking about immigration, thinking about immigration, does not make them [people] bigots. Not in any way. They’re anxious about the future. And since this conversation is going on in the houses, streets and neighbourhoods of Britain, it must be a conversation that the Labour Party joins too.”
The SNP responded, stating that Ed Miliband’s one-size-fits-all approach to immigration further highlights the need for decisions on Scotland’s future to be made in Scotland – rather than by a Labour party which is echoing the failed Tory election campaign of 2005.
They pointed out that Mr Miliband neglected to mention the demand for additional workers in parts of Scotland or how his proposed restrictions would impact on these local economies.
SNP Business and Enterprise spokesperson Mike Weir MP responded by arguing that Scotland needed a more flexible approach to immigration, stating “This is nothing more than dog whistle politics from Ed Miliband. He sounds more like the Tories and Michael Howard in 2005 than the leader of a progressive party.
“Clearly Labour has not learnt their lesson from Gordon Brown’s ‘British jobs for British workers’ embarrassment.
“Scotland has diverse labour market needs and demands so a flexible approach to immigration which would help the economic recovery is what is needed.
“The decisions about Scotland’s future are best made here in Scotland – not by politicians in Westminster.”
Earlier this week Mr Weir had pressed the Scotland Secretary Michael Moore on concerns within the farming and fruit growers sector over UK Government plans to end the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) from next year.
The scheme allows EU accession state workers to harvest crops on farms in the UK for periods up to six months.
Mike Weir said: “There are growing concerns within the sector over the ending of this scheme, with some producers warning it could lead to shortages of certain produce.
“It is crucial that the UK Government devise a successor scheme and the industry needs to have confidence that this is on the agenda now.
“The UK Government previously attempted to end the scheme in 2010 but, after the industry raised concerns, it won a reprieve. The same needs to happen again to secure the future of the sector.
“This is a vital part of the Scottish economy, and particularly of areas such as Angus – in total the horticultural industry, fruit vegetables and flower production contributed some £241 million to the Scottish economy in 2010, the total for the UK is over £3billion.”