UK: Worker Interest Group scrutinises government’s responses to parliamentary committee

FairSquare and other members of the Worker Interest Group have provided a parliamentary committee with detailed analysis of the British government’s response to questions on the seasonal agricultural worker scheme relating to migrant worker rights.

The Worker Interest Group is a coalition of 9 not-for-profit organisations based in the UK that are actively supporting and representing or proactively engaging with seasonal horticultural workers under the UK’s Seasonal Worker visa. Members of the group, including FairSquare, have written to the House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee to raise queries with regard to the government’s response to the committee’s report published in February 2024.

The queries relate to:

  • The urgent need for the government to publish reviews of the Seasonal Worker Route.
  • The need for the government to engage with a wide range of stakeholders, including Trade Unions.
  • The currently high risk that workers may be encouraged to migrate without certainty that there is enough work available.
  • The importance of restructuring the scheme to address risks to workers before extending the scheme.
  • The benefits that would ensue if the government provided workers with the option to apply to renew or to extend their visas in-country, subject to ongoing employment.
  • The critical need for legally binding bilateral labour migration agreements with origin states, to ensure that migrants can access jobs without paying fees.
  • The inappropriateness of asking seasonal workers to pay towards contributory benefits or income tax/national insurance, when they are not permitted to apply to renew their six-month long non-renewable visa and their visa does not have a pathway to settlement in the UK.
  • The need not to avoid perversely incentivise Scheme Operators to influence whether or not individuals seek protection or other visa statuses in the UK, which could potentially be unlawful.
  • The impact of the fact that labour inspectorates and immigration enforcement remain combined in practice, for seasonal workers.
  • The vital need for proactive inspections of both employment and accommodation standards that are carried out by specialist agencies (not UK Visas and Immigration).
  • The existence of a labour market enforcement gap for serious labour breaches which don’t reach the threshold of slavery, such as unclear use of productivity targets, pay issues, and circumstances of dismissal.
  • The question of who has ultimate responsibility for paying and enforcing the government’s newly adopted (and welcome) position of a 32 hour income guarantee for each week of workers’ stay in the UK, so that this can be practically implemented with immediate effect.
  • The need for regulatory oversight for seasonal worker accommodation, which falls through the gaps of regulation at present.

Read the full letter here.