Employers, TUC and construction unions will meet Home Office to debate seasonal working visas.
Industry leaders are to meet Home Office officials next Wednesday to decide whether more foreign workers should be allowed into the UK to tackle the skills crisis.

The meeting, which is part of wider Home Office consultations on immigration, will consider whether it is appropriate to create a seasonal workers scheme specifically for the construction industry.

A seasonal scheme, which is already being used in the agricultural sector, could lead to foreign workers being granted short-term working visas. When the visas expire the workers have to return to their home countries.

The summit will include representatives from the TUC, construction unions, the Construction Industry Training Board and the Construction Confederation.

Unions are expected to voice their concerns over bringing migrant workers to the UK, as they believe it could lead to more site accidents and a greater number of illegal workers.

UCATT general secretary George Brumwell confirmed that he would be attending the summit but said he would be against the creation of a seasonal scheme for construction as it could lead to relaxed employment conditions.

Brumwell said: "Construction is not like the agricultural industry – this measure would lead to casualisation of the workforce."

Jerry Lean, industrial relations director at the Construction Confederation, said the creation of a seasonal scheme would not solve the skills crisis.

He said there would not be a significant number of workers brought into the UK under the scheme, but he supported it as a means to legitimise foreign workers.

He said: "You can tackle the problem of illegal immigrants working here as well as providing a mechanism to make skilled workers legitimate in this country."

Paul Corby, national officer for mechanical and electrical union AMICUS-AEEU, who is also attending the summit, has already written to construction minister Brian Wilson to warn him about the issue.

In a letter seen by Building, Corby warned Wilson that non-European Union labour could be exploited by employers and that the move would not solve the skills shortage.

The letter said: "The reports of skills shortages are grossly over-exaggerated and in some parts of the country there are unemployed construction workers who are highly skilled."