The Home Office's proposal to grant short-term working visas to overseas construction workers has been met with scepticism by some unions.
Union leaders are worried that seasonal worker schemes will lead to more relaxed employment conditions in the UK. The concerns come shortly before a meeting between the Home Office and the construction industry and unions about the proposal.

T&G national construction officer Bob Blackman says that before more migrants are brought into the construction industry, the existing workers should be made legitimate through some kind of policing or monitoring. Blackman claims there are already thousands of non-European community workers employed in the UK who are not registered here or legitimately employed.

"There is also problems with bogus self-employment," says Blackman. "Many legitimate workers are not on the correct codes, so let's sort that out and then apply the same principles to address the immigrants situation." UCATT general secretary George Brumwell is also worried about the proposed scheme, which he believes will lead to an increased "casualisation of the workforce".

It is understood that the Home Office's working visa scheme would allow immigrants to stay in the country for up to six months, but they would not have the right to bring their dependants with them.

The proposals announced by Lord Rooker last month are intended to fill recruitment gaps across a number of industries suffering skills shortages. TUC International policy officer Nick Clark says he has already held meetings with the Home Office and union officials over a working holiday scheme for the hospitality sector.

Clark is also responsible for co-ordinating meetings between the construction sector and the Home Office. A meeting this Wednesday will go a long way to establishing the form the working holidays will take.

Some industry bodies are more optimistic than the unions. The Construction Confederation sees it as a great opportunity to legitimise foreign workers already working in the UK as well as those arriving in the future.

The CITB and Construction Confederation are already looking at how skills qualifications from other European countries could be recognised on UK building sites, which would allow thousands of construction workers to come to the UK