Unite rep Tomasz Wisniewski has lived in the UK for more than a decade and his daughter was born here.
Despite putting roots down in Britain, Wisniewski and many of his Polish compatriots are uneasy about their position in the UK and worried about how they will be treated post-Brexit.
“Since the referendum many Polish feel uncomfortable. There were criminal attacks on Polish shops, Poles have been attacked on the streets and people worry that this will only increase as Brexit drags on,” explained Wisniewski, who has been a Unite member for 11 years.
Fear over the rise in racist attacks and anti-immigrant rhetoric that accompanied the vote to leave the EU is part of a growing feeling within Polish communities that the many in Britain “do not want us here”, said Wisniewski.
Food production manager Wisniewski, who also works as a witness support worker, said that many emigrants are considering leaving the UK not only because they don’t feel welcome but because of low wages and Brexit-related inflation.
“Many of my friends are still earning the same amount of money since they arrived into UK in 2006,” he said.
“Inflation is also problem. Already, much more can be earned in Germany for example, or in the Netherlands and France. And it is much closer and cheaper when you want to go to Poland for a holiday.”
Wisniewski believes pay and working conditions will get worse once Britain leaves the EU and not only because of the economic shocks a hard-right Tory Brexit will precipitate.
“The government and bosses used the financial crisis of 2008 as an excuse to justify their actions: ‘There can be no salary increases because of the crisis. There will be public spending cuts because of the crisis’,” he said.
“Probably it will be the same story with Brexit. It will turn into an excuse to use it for almost everything – including eroding workers rights and cutting jobs.”
The concerns of Poles living in the UK has led Wisniewski to begin setting up an initiative for EU citizens residing in Britain called After Brexit Support.
“After Brexit Support seeks to ensure that everyone affected by the Brexit process and the ongoing political negotiations, understands the implications for them personally,” he said.
“It is important to guard against the possibility of people making decisions about their future based on wrong information due to ignorance or misinformation. This can be exacerbated due to language issues.”
Wisniewski added: “Lots of EU citizens will be forever grateful for the opportunities that Britain gave them. For the truly amazing years that they felt British in their hearts. Unfortunately, Brexit has made many people feel uncertain about their place here.”