09/07/2007

Safety and Migrant Workers: A practical guide for safety representatives

The British Trades Union Congress (TUC) has published a guide for safety
representatives which gives advice on how they can work with migrant workers to
help ensure their health and safety is protected.

This booklet covers the safety of people who come from abroad and who work
permanently, temporarily or seasonally. It covers those who appear on official
statistics, such as those from the European Economic Area; those with work
permits; those on working holidays; and also those who work without the
protection of legal status.

Most migrant workers are not low skilled, although many do low-skilled jobs.
There is significant migration of workers into areas such as banking, IT,
education and medicine from other EU member states, North America, Australasia,
India and South Africa.

Many migrant workers face no, or very little, increased risk. They speak the
host country language fluently, may have worked in the host country for many
years and have the same working conditions and security as non-migrant workers.
Nevertheless there is no doubt that migrant workers with low language skills or
with vulnerable employment or residency status are at greater
risk. It is these that this report concentrates on.

In 2006 the British HSE published research on the position of migrant workers.
It interviewed 200 migrant workers and found that:

  • Most had received no, or little, training, even if this was required for the
    work they do, such as scaffolding or food handling. This was also the case with
    health and safety training with a third receiving absolutely none and most of
    the rest simply getting a short induction session.

  • Because many migrant workers only intended to stay in the UK for a limited
    period of time and their main aim was to make money and then return home they
    were more likely to work when ill, and if they became ill for a long period
    would usually return to their country of origin. This was made worse by the
    widespread denial of sick pay. This meant there was a serious underreporting of
    illness and injury.

  • Many migrant workers worked over 60 hours a week. This was particularly the
    case in agriculture, catering and processing and packaging. Often overtime was
    not paid. There was evidence that long hours were more common in the low-paid
    sectors, especially those that paid less than the minimum wage.

  • Very low wages and long hours were more common among undocumented or
    unauthorised workers who worked under greater fear of dismissal and
    deportation. This group also had less information about their health and safety
    rights.

  • Around half of these interviewed had difficulties with English, although many
    tried to hide it from their employer for fear of not getting work. Because they
    were working long hours and spent most of their time within a migrant
    community, many migrant workers had no time or opportunity to improve their
    English.

  • Many migrant workers reported discrimination, harassment or racism, either
    from supervisors or coworkers. Sometimes this would relate to verbal abuse, in
    other occasions they would report unfavourable treatment.

  • Women workers were more likely to report that they had received no training,
    that their health was being compromised by the work they were doing and that
    they suffered from discrimination.

More information


AplusA-online.de - Source: Trades Union Congress