Hotel Workers Branch of Unite the union issued this statement following the detaining of a number of workers at the Byron burger chain by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). The workers were lured to a team meeting by management before being confronted by UKBA. They now face deportation.
70% of workers in London’s hospitality sector are migrants. Over the past five years resources which should be in place to prevent abuse and exploitation of all workers, regardless of nationality, have been consistently cut back and undermined by the Government.
There are not enough HMRC inspectors to enforce the minumum wage.
There are not enough HSE inspectors to enforce health and safety.
There are not enough Environmental Health officers to enforce food hygene and staff accomodation laws.
Tribunal fees are so punitive that workers cannot afford to claim their rights and claims for unlawful deductions have collapsed.
Coverage by collective bargaining agreements in the UK has dropped to 23%.
Wages in the UK have dropped by 10% – only matched by Greece.
At the same time there has been a massive increase in immigration raids – up by 80%, and now averaging 11 a day in London. Workers arrested and accused of having fake papers are often released when it is subsequently found that their papers were in order all along. By then it is too late. The damage is done and the trauma suffered.
The recent raids on Byron Burgers were apparently as a result of an intelligence based investigation. The workers currently detained had been with the company a long time. They had contracts of employment, they were paying tax and national insurance, they were settled, the company say they complied with employment laws. So these workers weren’t going anywhere. They were not about to abscond. There was no need for the authorities to show boat and engage in some sort of street theatre with workplace raids and arrests that upset their work colleagues who had established close friendships with those taken away. The whole thing could have been dealt with more humanely and subtly and that’s what people are angry about.
When are we going to see employers who abuse and exploit both British and migrant workers publicly humiliated and led away in handcuffs?