Migrant workers appeal angers union

A UNION has criticised the East of England Development Agency after it claimed migrant workers are needed to plug employment gaps in the region and help beat the recession.

A UNION has criticised the East of England Development Agency after it claimed migrant workers are needed to plug employment gaps in the region and help beat the recession.

The comments, made by Deborah Cadman, the chief executive of the agency, have incensed the GMB union.

Figures released recently showed that the number of unemployed people in Suffolk has rocketed by more than 85pc in a year.

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

'I think her comments are very insensitive. It is a million miles away from reality. The reality is that within Suffolk and 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.'

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Ms Cadman was speaking ahead of the publication of two new reports today which, EEDA say, provide evidence to help improve the economy of the region.

'Our first priority is putting significant investment into raising the skills of the local workforce, particularly helping those who are unemployed to gain new skills and get back into employment,' said Ms Cadman. 'In these difficult economic times however, it's vital that businesses can get the workers they need.

'We need migrant workers to plug employment gaps in the East of England. Where the right workers aren't available locally, employers must be able to draw on a wider pool of international workers. With these reports EEDA is providing the evidence to help private and public sector partners make decisions so we can get the region through the tough economic times and prepare for the eventual upturn."

One of the reports, by the think-tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (ippr) says many employers in the East of England rely on migrant workers.

The report acknowledges that demand for migrant labour will decline during the recession and suggests that migrant numbers will fall in response, but argues that the regional economy will continue to need international workers.

Dr Jill Rutter, Senior Research Fellow at ippr, said: 'Our research in the East of England has shown that many businesses, from agriculture to high-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.'

EEDA says that in the last six months it has provided training opportunities for more than 2000 workers in the East of England, including support for people being made redundant to help them move back into work. However, it says that some skills gaps will take a number of years to close, while the demand for some highly-skilled workers is likely to remain greater than the supply available within the UK.

The agency says that 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.