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The debate about EU enlargement is raging as fi ercely today as it did a decade ago when the process began, but facts can often

be forgotten when dealing with an emotive issue like this. Some argue that Eastern Europeans are taking jobs from the indigenous population, whilst others will say they are now a vital part of a local economy, and are doing jobs that UK workers refuse to do.

Information collected by Asset Skills on EU migration in the cleaning

industry has shed some light on the debate. On the whole, the evidence would suggest that the cleaning industry has welcomed EU migrants and has benefi tted from a ready supply of relatively cheap and reliable labour. The feedback from employers on the quality of Eastern European workers has been extremely positive, with many reporting that EU migrant workers are diligent, on time, fl exible, and very hard working. Some companies even admit that migrant labour is essential to the successful running of their business, and that EU enlargement has actually solved recruitment problems that had existed before.

But, of course, it hasn’t all been plain sailing, as the language and cultural barriers still remain a problem in many cases. Also, there is a lot of evidence emerging of migrants returning home after a certain period in the UK; while a number get homesick in their fi rst few weeks, for others, the social and cultural barriers are too big to hurdle. A real major concern cited by cleaning contractors has been the amount of paperwork needed to register an

en considering worker

nsion of European borders cleaning industry?

Employers in the cleaning industry have tended to recruit from outside the UK for different reasons, and this is something which is likely to increase

with the expansion of the European borders. The main reason for employing foreign workers has been to make up for the defi ciency in the supply of ready-made skills in the UK and higher level skills which remain in short supply worldwide in the global economy. Another key reason has been to complement the skills of non-migrants at whatever level is deemed appropriate, simply because

there are not enough people with different levels of skill available.

The benefi ts to employers of using this labour force means that they have a supply of tailor-made trained and qualifi ed people with the skills to hit the ground running. Taking this route of employing foreign nationals can bring a different perspective and approach to a role that has previously been ran in a one-dimensional way, with benefi ts in productivity. Many migrants are also comfortable with zero-hour contracts, which give the employer increased fl exibility. With this in mind, the expansion of the European borders will have a positive impact on the cleaning industry in terms of plugging the skills gap and reducing labour costs.

On the fl ip side, there are concerns associated with employing immigrants, not least being the

EU employee, and that the onus is on the company, rather than the government, to prove the legitimacy of the worker.

The larger cleaning contractors, particularly in the urban centres, are undoubtedly benefi ting from EU migrant labour, but the contribution from British workers shouldn’t be overlooked. Many workers from the EU do return home after a certain time, and others move out of the cleaning sector once their language and skills improve. There’s also new fi gures from the Home Offi ce that show many more UK workers are taking up lower skilled employment; the latest labour market survey fi gures show, that of the 425,000 extra people working in low skilled jobs in the past year, some 367,000 were British nationals.

So, EU migration does bring enormous benefi ts to our industry, but we should never forget the tremendous potential of our own indigenous workers.

Lee Baker, Media and Policy Manager, The Building Futures Group

impact on non-migrants who cannot fi nd employment in a competitive market. The issue of language and culture can also present problems and can require specialist training itself. Plus, while many migrants are prepared to take roles for which they are over-qualifi ed, it can bring frustrations for the employee and the employer. However, in a sector such as the cleaning industry where a skilled workforce is necessary, I don’t feel it matters whether workers are British-born or migrants. If they have qualifi cations at the relevant level, are prepared to learn, and are committed with the right attitudes, then they meet the criteria.

Brian Boll, Systems Director, Jigsaw Cleaning


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