Home secretary changes rules to ensure migrant workers can take strike action

12 July 2018

UCU welcomes change and says it will provide much-needed clarity for migrant workers

The government is changing rules to ensure migrant workers can participate in legal strike action without any fear of it impacting on their right to remain in the UK, home secretary Sajid Javid has announced.

The issue relates to an annual 20-day limit for unpaid absence from work, which applies to migrant workers on Tier 2 visas. UCU wrote to the Home Office in March to seek clarity on the matter during 14 days of strikes at universities over pensions.

However, the response from immigration minister Caroline Nokes at the time failed to provide any reassurance, simply saying "full regard will be given to the circumstances" when making decisions about immigration status.

As part of its campaign, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt and shadow chancellor John McDonnell wrote a piece saying the right to strike was fundamental and it "shouldn't be left to the discretion of Home Office officials whether engaging in strikes will lead to deportation."

The article said that in the context of the Windrush scandal and the government's hostile immigration policy, migrant workers needed absolute certainty about their rights. It called for an "unequivocal, written guarantee" that days spent taking legitimate strike action would not put migrant workers' immigration status at risk, which the government has provided today.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'International staff make a vital contribution to our country and we are delighted that they can now play a full role at work without fear of reprisal. All workers should be able to join their colleagues in defending their employment rights.

'Strike action is never taken lightly, but the previous lack of clarity meant migrant workers who needed to take unpaid leave for other reasons could not risk taking part for fear of risking their right to remain in the country.'

In a written statement, Sajid Javid said: 'I will be making changes to the guidance and Immigration Rules for migrant workers (under the Tier 2 and 5 immigration routes) and their sponsors. The specific change will add legal strike action to the list of exceptions to the rule on absences from employment without pay for migrant workers.

'It will make clear that there will be no immigration consequences for any migrant worker who takes part in legal strike action in the same way that a migrant worker is not disadvantaged if they take maternity or paternity leave. This will ensure that non-EEA migrants can take part in legal industrial action along with their British and European colleagues.'

 

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