LABOUR’S Ed Miliband tried to head off a challenge from right-wing parties yesterday with the public launch of a “fair” immigration policy drive in the seaside town of Great Yarmouth.
The opposition leader struck a different tone from boss-friendly Ukip’s anti-immigrant rhetoric by pledging a clampdown on rogue employers via new powers to prosecute over low wages and exploitation.
Undercutting local workers’ pay or conditions by exploiting migrant workers would become a criminal offence under a Labour government, he said.
The pledge was welcomed by Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O’Grady, who accused the Con-Dem government of helping to make Britain “the exploitation capital of Europe.”
“We welcome these proposals to crack down on those who use migrant workers to undermine the existing workforce,” she said.
“Everyone should be paid a decent wage for doing a decent job.”
But Mr Miliband also repeated harsh new policies unveiled by shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves in the Daily Mail last month in the face of a Ukip challenge in traditional Labour heartlands.
On plans to cut EU migrants’ access to jobless benefits for their first two years in Britain, Mr Miliband declared: “Control doesn’t stop at the borders — it’s also about fair rules when people get here.
“Fair rules means that entitlement to benefits needs to be earned.”
In-work benefits for migrants could also be reduced under Labour’s plan, which would need to be negotiated with other EU member states.
It argues that the limits would reduce the pool of willing labour paid rock-bottom wages by exploiting bosses.
However, during a lengthy Q&A session Mr Miliband had no answer when challenged on what might happen if those denied benefits face going “hungry or without shelter.”
“If they’re hungry they may commit crime,” it was suggested.
The Labour leader maintained that forcing those joining the 2.34 million EU migrants already in Britain to wait two years for social security was “striking the right balance.”
There was no mention of the impact of Labour’s proposal on 1.8m British citizens abroad with access to other EU countries’ benefits and health systems.