Unite warns government of worsening staff recruitment shortages as Brexit nears

Employers across many sectors of the UK economy are telling Unite that they are already facing severe staff recruitment problems and that labour shortages will continue to worsen as Brexit nears.

In its response to the government’s Migration Advisory Committee call for evidence on the economic and social impacts of the UK’s exit from the EU and how the UK’s immigration system should be aligned with a modern industrial strategy, Unite is concerned that the instability caused by the Brexit vote, particularly on free movement rights, will only add to the current recruitment shortages faced in those sectors.

Industries with quantifiable labour shortages in the British market – such as the bus industry – will need to be able to continue recruiting staff from outside the UK and to keep the EU staff they already employ, Unite says.

The NHS is already struggling to recruit and retain permanent staff and social care providers have told Unite of similar problems, as well as high turnover rates. The union warns of detrimental impacts on service delivery as a result.

Unite’s response calls on the government to use every tool at its disposal for an industrial strategy that includes plugging skills gaps by supporting quality apprenticeships, the use of public sector procurement to support industry and removing barriers to reshoring jobs and direct support for our strategic industries.

The union says there must be safeguards that defend all workers against wage cutting and that this must include ending the exploitation of migrant workers, including stronger collective bargaining rights, so any employer wishing to recruit labour abroad must be covered by a proper trade union agreement or by sectoral collective bargaining.

Its evidence highlights how, in the construction industry for example, Spanish and Portuguese workers employed by a contractor have been found to be being paid £4 less than the collective agreement rate for joiners.

“Such safeguards would allow us to hold the line and guarantee a union-backed ‘rate for the job’, no matter a workers’ country of origin,” Unite’s evidence says. “Such safeguards would end the race-to-the-bottom attacks on wages, terms and conditions.

“Unite supports all our members and will continue to support the right of EU workers to remain in the UK after Brexit.”

Read Unite’s evidence to MAC in full