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Reports on migrant staff 'utter garbage'

PUBLISHED: 07:34 25 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:27 03 July 2010

MIGRANT workers are essential to keeping the East Anglian economy afloat during the recession, two new reports claimed yesterday - but the research was branded “utter garbage” by a union official.

MIGRANT workers are essential to keeping the East Anglian economy afloat during the recession, two new reports claimed yesterday - but the research was branded “utter garbage” by a union official.

The East of England Development Agency commissioned the studies which conclude that many employers rely on overseas workers to do jobs which local people will not or cannot do.

The research argues that despite the downturn, the regional economy continues to need migrant staff.

Deborah Cadman, chief executive of EEDA, said: “We need migrant workers to plug employment gaps. Where the right workers aren't available locally, employers must be able to draw on a wider pool of international workers.”

One of the reports was by the Institute of Public Policy Research (ippr) think-tank and its senior research fellow Dr Jill Rutter said: “Our research in the East of England has shown that many businesses, from agriculture to hi-tech, depend on workers from other countries to survive and grow.

“Often this is because there are not enough local workers with the right skills and experience.

“In other cases migrants provide vital, flexible labour where British people can't do the job for practical reasons or simply don't want to do it.

“So if the availability of migrant labour decreases, the economy could be at significant risk.”

But Glenn Holdom, GMB regional organiser, said: “Quite frankly it is utter garbage, given the unemployment situation has gone through the roof.”

Speaking about Ms Cadman's comments, Mr Holdom said: “I think they are very insensitive. It is a million miles away from reality. The reality is that within East Anglia, people are queuing for jobs, with or without skills, so why are they saying they need migrant workers to fill the gaps?

“As a union we have people feeding through us all the time saying; 'Can you help us to look for employment?' I feel incensed about these comments.”

Last week it was revealed that the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance in Norfolk rose by more than 1,300 in the four weeks to February 12.

EEDA says that in the last six months it has provided training opportunities for more than 2,000 workers in the East of England, including support for people being made redundant to help them move back into work.

But it says some skills gaps will take a number of years to close, while demand for some highly-skilled workers is likely to remain greater than the supply available within the UK.

The agency says other vacancies which are seasonal or in remote locations will also remain unsuitable even for those who become unemployed during the recession and will continue to require migrants who can be more flexible about where and when they work.

To see both reports in full go to www.eeda.org/migrantworkers

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