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With the widening skills shortage of significant concern, Unite – Britain and Ireland’s biggest trade union – is urging the construction industry to address the thorny issue of training to avoid a potentially “calamitous” Brexit.
The Unite announcement coincided with a stark warning from the UK’s trade bodies regarding access to EU workers post-Brexit and the upshot for housebuilders countrywide.
Those same trade bodies have now called upon the government to outline in full plans to implement a two-year grace period for EU citizens seeking settled status and for a post-transitional migration system that takes into account occupations where workers are in short supply.
But Unite has said it is high time that the industry demonstrated that, rather than relying on cheap labour and exploitative working practices, it was committed to training home grown talent through the provision of high quality apprenticeship places.
“The ongoing uncertainty over the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK is resulting in workers leaving the UK and is exacerbating the deepening construction skills crisis and threatening to seriously damage the industry,” said Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary of Unite
“But those trade bodies need to set out what they intend to do to kick their addiction to cheap, foreign labour and horrific employment practices, not just ask how they can go on relying on EU labour after March 2019.
“Tens of thousands of young people are being placed in ‘dead end’ classroom based construction courses and these courses totally dwarf the number of construction apprentices beginning their training.
“This is at the same time that the CITB plans to cease providing training directly and instead divest courses to other training providers. It is clear that the industry needs to get its house in order.”
According to Ms Cartmail: “Unite is committed to fighting for the right of EU citizens already in the UK to remain, and for the establishment of safeguards that defend all workers against wage cutting, including ending the exploitation of migrant workers, and stronger collective bargaining rights.”
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