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Labor unions demand Blair accept Romanian, Bulgarian migrants

The government is planning to limit the number of people who can migrate from the two nations when they join the European Union. Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, which represents almost 7 million workers, says the plan will harm the economy. “The solution is to end exploitation, not put up the shutters,” Barber said at a press conference today, on the eve of the TUC's annual conference in Brighton, England. “Young, healthy migrant workers make a net contribution to the economy and the public finances through their tax.” At least 600,000 migrants entered the UK when Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined the EU two years ago. The government had forecast 20,000 would come. The inflow helped increase the size of the UK's workforce to a record 28.9 million and raise unemployment to its highest in four years. The TUC wants the migrant workers to have the same rights as British workers and pledged to do more to recruit them to one of the UK's 67 unions under its umbrella. It also wants the government to work with unions and employers to help manage the flow of workers. Trade Secretary Alistair Darling said on Aug. 21 that the government wouldn't allow immigration from the two nations without restrictions as it did when 10 nations joined the EU in 2004. The EU will decide by October when Bulgaria and Romania can join. Lawmakers in the opposition Conservative Party and voters surveyed by polling companies have said the government should impose tighter limits on immigration to hold down the costs of state-funded schools, hospitals and railroads. Three-quarters of voters surveyed want tougher immigration controls while 23% want the rules relaxed or maintained, according to a survey of 975 adults by Ipsos Mori Ltd. published by the Sunday Times yesterday. The survey conducted between Aug. 11 and Aug. 13 had a 3 percentage point margin of error. (Bloomberg)