Anglo-Portuguese union agreement offers help to migrant workers

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The British and Portuguese trade union movements signed a co-operation protocol yesterday (28 August), aimed at ensuring Portuguese migrant workers in the UK can join unions and enforce their rights at work. The new agreement will help to prevent the exploitation of migrants and the undercutting of existing workers’ wages, says the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Over 50,000 young people emigrated from Portugal in 2012, mainly because of high unemployment and lack of job opportunities there, says the TUC. Many will have come to Britain, and to London in particular, as the capital already has a large Portuguese community. According to recent census data, the number of Portuguese-born people living in the UK has more than doubled over the last decade to 88,161.

The protocol also covers Portuguese speakers from non-European countries, such as Angola and Brazil, who are working in the UK. Unions will seek to recruit and represent these migrant workers so they can enforce their rights, and a guide to workplace rights in Portuguese will be posted on the TUC website.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This new co-operation between unions across borders will benefit everyone except bad employers and lousy landlords. It will help protect Portuguese arrivals from mistreatment, and make it difficult for employers who rely upon individuals’ lack of experience to pay them less than the rate for the job.”

Armenio Carlos, the General Secretary of CGTP-IN (the Portugese eqivalemt of the TUC) said: “The neo-liberal policies of the EU and most of its governments are causing a severe recession in Portugal and provoking mass unemployment.

“As a result the country is experiencing massive emigration – nearly 300,000 workers have left in the last three years alone.

“We are now talking of a very different type of immigrants – young and highly skilled. However they are still, in most cases, doing low-paid jobs in the UK and other countries.

“We hope that this protocol will help Portuguese migrants to understand their rights so that they do not fall to prey to exploitative employers trying to employ them on exploitative terms and poverty pay.”

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