The second workshop of the project partnership saw trade union organisers and officials from British unions come together with representatives from Bulgarian, Romanian, Polish, Hungarian, Italian trade unions at the TUC headquarters in London to share insights on the difficulties faced by migrant workers and ways trade unions can support them.
The workshop opened with a presentation by Professor Sonia McKay (Working Lives Research Institute) of her expert study into the nature of migration in the UK, the labour market, industrial relations and the kind of commonplace exploitation that both migrant and British workers faced. TUC President Mohammad Taj gave a speech with insights from his personal experience as a migrant worker in the UK. He gave inspiring examples of his work to organise migrant workers in the transport industry where he works as a bus driver and combating racism. Marisa Pompei (Director, CGIL-INCA) provided valuable insights into the work of CGIL-INCA, a trade union organisation that receives government funding to give advice and support to Italian citizens in other countries.
On the second day of the workshop, Bela Galgoczi (Senior Researcher, ETUI) gave a presentation on the impact of austerity on migration patterns in the EU, noting that migrant workers were often hit hardest by the impact of recession.
The workshop generated stimulating discussion. Participants from central and Eastern Europe shared insights into the nature of migration from their countries to the UK and other 'receiver' countries and the kind of difficulties workers face when arriving in Britain. They described how many did not know their employment rights, had difficulties with language and often faced poor conditions or exploitation at work.
British participants from the workshop shared insights into the ways trade unions in the UK and the TUC had been working for many years to support migrant workers to be informed of their rights and join trade unions so they had the courage to speak out about bad treatment. Many of the trade union representatives working in the UK were themselves from a migrant backgrounds – ranging from Poland to the Philippines to Nigeria - which meant they had valuable insights when working with migrant communities.
A number of recommendations for ways that trade unions can cooperate across borders to provide more support to migrant workers was generated from this discussion. These ideas will be developed further at the next workshop of the project in Romania next month and our final recommendations presented at the project's final conference in September in Hungary.