Many people have contacted me recently about the rights of migrant workers to engage in industrial action. I agree that this is a highly important issue and I strongly believe that being able to strike is a fundamental right.
Migrants working in the UK on Tier 2 skilled worker visas are subject to a 20-day annual limit on unpaid leave from work. These restrictive rules mean that migrants who need to take unpaid leave for other reasons – perhaps to look after a sick relative – find themselves unable to participate for fear of breaching the limit and risking their immigration status.
I firmly believe that all workers should be able to play a full part in legitimate strike action without fear of reprisal, including migrant workers, in defending their employment rights.
With Brexit approaching, 2.4 million EU citizens who work in the UK could shortly become subject to the UK’s visa system. I am concerned that if the immigration rules are allowed to restrict their engagement in lawful strike action, our industrial relations will suffer.
International staff need an unequivocal, written guarantee from the Government that days spent taking legitimate strike action will not put their immigration status at risk. A small clarification would make a big difference to the lives of those affected.
I can assure that my Labour colleagues and I will continue to press the Government for more clarity on this issue and to protect the rights of migrant workers, and an end to the hostile environment policy towards migrants more widely.