Amnesty for Illegal Workers to End Exploitation

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2005 National Delegate Conference
24 June 2005
Carried as Amended

Conference notes:

1)there are many thousands of paperless workers out there, without whose work the economy would grind to a standstill;

2)paperless workers are the invisible engine room of twilight London. No Londoner can easily escape involvement in this exploitation. Paperless workers serve us meals in restaurants, clean our hospitals, our hotels, streets and tube stations, produce the sandwiches and snacks we have for lunch and many of the clothes, CDs and consumer goods we buy in west end shops. London is not at all unique in this respect;

3)trade unions in the United Kingdom (UK) have found a number of employers with up to a quarter of their workforce without papers or legal status, employed directly or via gangmasters and agencies;

4)these workers are mostly paid cash in hand at rates as low as £2.50 per hour and made to work 80 hours per week without weekends or holidays, often under the threat of deportation;

5)such employers are guilty of defrauding the inland revenue as well as being responsible for the massive scale of illegal working. Many workers have been deported when caught;

6)that UNISON in Greater London has carried out a migrant workers project based upon the experience and perceptions of migrant workers employed at three hospital sites in East London.

Conference believes:

a)that no worker should be classed as illegal;

b)all workers have a right to put a roof over their head and food on the table;

c)all workers should enjoy the same rights at work, including the right to organise a union;

d)it is not the workers who should be blamed, prosecuted and deported for working here without papers, it is the employers and gangmasters who make it possible. Only with an amnesty for the workers and a few company directors prosecuted will we see any improvement in this shameful situation.

Conference also notes the many positive initiatives taken by UNISON with both the UK and Scottish government support including:

·the UNISON Scotland New Workers Project. This pilot project, funded by the Home Office, provides trade union learning and work experience for refugees in Glasgow;

·the UNISON Scotland Overseas Nursing and Health Workers Network. A support network for several hundred overseas workers in Scotland;

··One Scotland Many Cultures is the Scottish Executive campaign designed to tackle racism in Scotland and is linked to the fresh talent initiative that positively encourages people to consider coming to live and work in Scotland.”


UNISON should take account of the recommendations of the UNISON migrant workers project and in particular should consider the following recommendations:

i)UNISON should identify areas where there is significant employment of migrant workers in public services and seek to ensure that UNISON’s recruitment approach in those areas matches the needs of those workers;

ii)UNISON should build upon the work done by the TUC and HSE in producing basic workers’ rights information targeted at migrant workers. Key recruitment materials should be produced in languages other than English, on a phased and planned basis, and UNISON should develop a standard application form to be available in a variety of languages, in hard copy and online formats.

iii)UNISON should ensure that it is able to provide initial advice to migrant workers who are employed in public services on immigration, accommodation and access to and eligibility for social amenities. Training should be provided to both lay activists and full time officials to enable them to offer this advice;

iv)UNISON should provide services tailored to migrant workers working in public services and in membership in UNISON, including specifically legal advice on immigration, assistance with opening a bank account, low commission overseas money transfer and the production of an advice pack on tax, national insurance, pensions and benefits;

v)UNISON already plays a significant role in providing training in English as a Second Language (ESL) through Lifelong Learning. UNISON should publicise this work and ensure that it is coordinated with recruitment of migrant workers;