Foreign advert ban puts British workers first
Sam Coates, Chief Political Correspondent
From The Times
January 19, 2009
Employers will be prevented from advertising jobs overseas under plans being drawn up to ensure that British workers fill vacancies during the recession.
The latest unemployment figures, published on Wednesday, will show that the number of people out of work has risen to two million for the first since the mid-Nineties. Ministers want British workers to get priority for the half-million jobs that are still available.
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, is changing the rules to force thousands of nursing, primary teaching, hotel management and other skilled migrant jobs to be advertised in Jobcentre Plus.
Companies that break the new rules could have their licence to employ non-EU migrants revoked and face fines of up to 10,000 for each illegal employee on their staff.
The Home Office says that last year 80,000 jobs in Britain were advertised to workers from outside the European Union. Ministers believe that the change will curb the number of migrants coming to Britain, because migrants will be unable to obtain a work visa from the UK Border Agency without having a specific job offer.
This is the first significant step towards fulfilling Gordon Brown's controversial promise made in 2007 to keep British jobs for British workers.
EU laws make it illegal for an employer to favour a British applicant over most other European nationals, but Europeans account for only one in four immigrants to Britain, so this measure could have a significant impact.
Official figures have shown that immigrants have taken four out of every five new jobs in Britain since 1997.
Unions are campaigning to cut down the number of foreign workers getting jobs in Britain. The Office for National Statistics says that there are currently 562,000 unfilled vacancies in the British economy.
Under existing rules, employers are obliged to publicise the vacancy for up to two weeks in the UK before taking the advertisement overseas. However, some employers advertise jobs in obscure trade journals or in newsagents' windows, meaning that there is little chance of them being seen by significant numbers of unemployed Britons.
The change, which can be made without parliamentary approval under provisions in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, will force these jobs to appear at the local Jobcentre Plus.
Ms Smith told the News of the World yesterday: When it comes to immigration, in difficult economic times I believe we need a tough system that offers British workers the first crack of the whip for British jobs.
The decision may spark charges of hypocrisy. Labour MPs are in revolt over the decision to allow foreign businesses to take a stake in the Royal Mail.
Lord Mandelson angered some of them last week by saying that the Government would not confine itself to the gene pool of British management when it came to bringing in the outside investment and expertise needed to turn Royal Mail around.
Ms Smith's announcement came as two unions, Unite and the GMB, organised a demonstration for today outside a new power station at Staythorpe, near Newark, Nottinghamshire.
Unite claims that of the 850 vacancies for welders, steelworkers and other construction workers at the power station, none has been earmarked for British workers. Poles and Spaniards have been taking the jobs, the union says.
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