Friday, December 28, 2012

Extra 20,000 foreign workers could head to the UK

More than 20,000 foreign workers from outside the EU could flock to Britain to replace Romanian and Bulgarian fruit pickers who will be tempted by better jobs when work restrictions are lifted next year (Dec 2013).

The new wave of overseas workers should be allowed to come from countries including Ukraine, Moldova and Croatia, despite 2.51 million unemployed people in the UK, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said.   Unemployed Britons tend to be based in cities and few are interested in short-term, seasonal work on farms in rural areas, they added.

The Romanians and Bulgarians picking fruit and harvesting crops are expected to drop their tools and head to the cities for what is seen as easier low-skilled work in better conditions in bars and restaurants when restrictions on where they can work are lifted at the end of next year (2013).

Farmers want to clear the way for thousands of other foreign workers from outside the EU to take their place for up to six months at a time, picking strawberries, potatoes and cauliflowers for the supermarket shelves.

Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, chief horticultural adviser for the NFU, said: “Without those 21,500 workers we simply won’t have enough people here to pick crops.  “In the past there have been years where we simply haven’t been able to get enough workers – not on that scale, but by a few thousand – and the result is that crops go unharvested and unpicked and food has to come in from elsewhere.  “There have been shortages on the shelves. It’s not somewhere we want to go again.”

The Government's immigration advisers are considering the impact on the UK and its seasonal workers on farms once restrictions are lifted and migrants from Romania and Bulgaria can take any job in the UK from January 1 2014.

Numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians living in the UK have already jumped from 29,000 to 155,000 since the two countries joined the EU five years ago, and one Conservative MP, Philip Hollobone, has predicted this could treble again to 425,000 within two years of the restrictions being lifted.

But the mandatory lifting of the work restrictions will also give the 21,500 Romanians and Bulgarians already in the UK under the seasonal agricultural workers scheme (Saws) the freedom to leave their labour-intensive jobs on farms.

Given the choice of picking fruit and having up to six months work or “more comfortable work in better conditions” in hospitality, catering, or care homes, Romanians and Bulgarians on the scheme are expected to leave “as soon as those restrictions are lifted”, Mrs Campbell-Gibbons said.  “We suspect we may get some people return for one season, but then they’ll use our farms as a stepping stone into work elsewhere,” she said.  We’ve seen that happen in the past.”

The industry has also faced difficulties attracting unemployed Britons to take the jobs, she added.  “People in the UK have a preference for permanent work, as opposed to temporary; working outdoors, picking fruit, it’s unskilled work and it’s not seen as a very attractive prospect for the majority.

“Despite government aspirations to achieve it, it’s unrealistic to expect that you can just cut the workforce by 20,000 and expect that to be filled.”

One option would be to create a new scheme for students from anywhere in the world, or to restrict it to workers from countries looking to join the EU, such as the Ukraine, Moldova, or Croatia.

Martin Ruhs, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said: “The interesting question is, does the UK want to have jobs here that will mainly be done by people who cannot legally do any other jobs.

"If the argument is that this job will not be done by anybody who has free choice of employment, then I think there is a question about, ‘what is it about this sector and is it a good or bad idea for the UK in a way to be encouraging that?’   "It's not a straightforward question.

"On the one hand you could say, ‘Well, the UK shouldn't be in the business of promoting this very labour intensive farming and why not let the industry decline and we start importing?’

"The other argument is that there are many people who have a demand for British strawberries, and if it's important to you to have British strawberries then obviously you need to find a way of keep producing them here, which means you need to find a way of providing labour to his sector.”

Dr Ruhs, who is also a member of the Migration Advisory Committee, said it would report on the future of the Saws scheme early next year.  "Saws is one of the key issues that we're looking at, absolutely," he said.

"You could encourage a scheme that brings in non-EU workers from countries that have applied to be members of the EU in the future, or you could bring in countries from elsewhere."

A UK Border Agency spokesman said: “The Government has no current plans to introduce a replacement for the seasonal agricultural workers scheme after 2013, but we recognise the concerns of the agricultural sector and have asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee to look into this issue.”


NE: Illegal immigration ordinance makes it way through courts

Fremont’s illegal immigration ordinance moved from U.S. District Court at the beginning of 2012 to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals where, by the end of the year, oral arguments had been heard and Ordinance No. 5165 rested in the hands of a three-judge panel.

In the meantime, however, employment portions of the ordinance went into effect on May 4.

The ordinance, approved by Fremont voters on June 21, 2010, was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Laurie Smith Camp on Feb. 20 upheld its employment portions — basically requiring use of the federal E-Verify system — and portions allowing the city to issue occupancy licenses to renters, but struck down portions prohibiting the harboring of illegal aliens, revoking occupancy licenses and penalties following revocation of occupancy licenses.

Both sides declared victory, but the ACLU and MALDEF quickly appealed and the city cross-appealed.

The city council on Feb. 28 unanimously approved a March 5 implementation of portions of the ordinance requiring employers and city contractors to use E-Verify.

The ordinance applies only to new hires after the date of the ordinance’s implementation, but all businesses needed to be registered by May 4.

Penalties for noncompliance could include revocation of city-issued permits, contracts or grants; acceleration of loan terms with the city; or a public hearing.

In the same motion, the council continued to delay implementing the rest of the ordinance until the Court of Appeals issues a final ruling.

The council, on March 13, allocated $450,000 toward implementation of the employment portion. The money will come from funds that had been levied in property taxes the past two years for legal defense of the ordinance.

Later in March, the ACLU and MALDEF submitted claims to the city for legal work totaling more than a combined $1 million.

The $709,000 bill from the ACLU included more than 900 hours of work by attorneys Jennifer Chang Newell and Kenneth Sugarman at a billable rate of $390 per hour.

In contrast, attorney Kris Kobach, who wrote the ordinance and is defending it on behalf of the city at no charge, was seeking about $6,000 for expenses.

Both sides filed a joint motion on March 30 to stay proceedings on bills of costs pending appeals.

The city council on April 10 approved creation of a full-time legal secretary position and an investigator to help City Attorney Paul Payne implement the ordinance. The secretary position has since been filled, but hiring an investigator was put on hold, and that position may not be filled if city officials determine they don’t need it.

“At this point, as the ordinance stands, I believe I’ve got an obligation to go forward with (enforcement). I’m still working out a lot of the details as far as the investigatory end of things,” Payne said in April.

City Administrator Dale Shotkoski said he doesn’t want the city attorney so involved with the immigration ordinance that Payne can’t do the rest of his job.

“This is one ordinance,” Shotkoski said. “There are a whole bunch of them out there. There are also contracts he reviews and a lot of other things he’s doing for us, so we can’t have him spending 90 percent of his time on this ordinance, then we aren’t getting the benefit of having a city attorney.”

Oral arguments at the Court of Appeals were heard in St. Paul, Minn., on Dec. 13.

Chang Newell argued that the ordinance conflicts with and undermines federal control over immigration.

Kobach said plaintiffs could not identify a single federal statute that clearly conflicts with the ordinance, and referred to a federal law he said points to Congress wanting to discourage the unlawful housing of illegal immigrants in subsidized housing.


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