Union warns government decision to prevent direct employment will lead to exploitation

Bulgarian and Romanian workers will be open to exploitation after a government decision to prevent direct employment, according to UCATT.

The union said government has decided not to allow Bulgarian and Romanian workers to seek direct employment in the United Kingdom until at least the end of 2008.

Under current government restrictions most people from the two countries can enter Britain freely but are not entitled to work here, but under European Union (EU) rules they can become self-employed.

Self-employed workers do not have the full employment rights and protections of direct workers.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of UCATT, said: “The government’s policy has not stopped migrant workers from coming here to seek work. Instead it has created a situation where they are victimised and exploited by unscrupulous bosses. They fear seeking help or assistance as it could lead to them receiving hefty fines. Bosses often falsely suggest that workers will be deported if they join unions or report abuses.”

UCATT estimates many workers signed up to the Inland Revenue’s Construction Industry Scheme (CIS4) are “bogusly self-employed” when they should be directly employed.

It also said many people on the scheme do not have a National Insurance number or Unique Tax Reference.

Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU on 1 January 2007.