Fight ban on the “unskilled”

Submitted by AWL on 20 March, 2019 - 10:59 Author: Ben Tausz

The government’s Immigration Bill has emerged from Committee stage without amendments and is set to return to the House of Commons.

We do not yet know when this will be, but the date is likely to be set soon because the Tories want to get their basic Brexit legislation through before 29 March.

The Bill will end free movement for EU citizens and hand over a blank cheque for Ministers to write a new immigration regime themselves – so-called “Henry VIII” powers.

A White Paper in December 2018 indicated their intentions. The Conservatives want to class all migrant workers earning under £30,000 as “unskilled” and restrict their right to stay in the country to one year, with no possibility to extend this or switch to another visa, and with a ban on re-applying for a further year.

This is a racist charter for exploitative bosses, ensuring that lower-waged migrant workers are trapped in precarity and less able to settle, integrate and organise in the trade union movement.

At the Bill’s Second Reading on 28 January, the Labour leadership was forced from abstention into opposition at the last minute by an angry outcry from the left-wing Labour grassroots, but it was by then too late even to get a good turnout of Labour MPs voting against the Bill.

The Labour Campaign for Free Movement organised a day of action on 1 March in which supporters came out in communities from Brixton to Birmingham under the slogans “Kill the Immigration Bill”, “Migrants Welcome” and “Defend and Extend Free Movement”.

Actions ranged from rallies and stunts to high-street stalls, and were organised by supportive trade union branches, Momentum groups, local Labour parties, local migrant rights’ groups, and local left-wing anti-Brexit groups.

Labour-left MPs such as Lloyd Russell-Moyle wrote in support of the day of action, and the Bakers’ Union President – a “Lexit” supporter – also issued an endorsement.

Other Lexiteers who say they oppose closing the borders should be pressed to follow suit.

We must demand the Labour leadership and MPs are forthright, unambiguous and tightly whipped in opposing the Bill – not merely tweaking it.

The Labour Campaign for Free Movement and other migrant rights groups will be planning further action as we hear about the Bill’s timetable, and are asking supporters to write to MPs (a template email can be found here).

Activists can also propose that their local Labour parties and trade union branches state their opposition.

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