Code for migrant workers praised

A new voluntary code of practice for businesses employing migrant workers was yesterday given a positive welcome by the region's key players.The code, intended as a guide for employers recruiting and employing migrant workers and overseas staff in the UK, is the work of the charity Business in the Community (BITC) which aims to help companies improve their impact on society.

A new voluntary code of practice for businesses employing migrant workers has been given a positive welcome by the region's key players.

The code, intended as a guide for employers recruiting and employing migrant workers and overseas staff in the UK, is the work of the charity Business in the Community (BITC) which aims to help companies improve their impact on society.

Its launch in Boston, Lincolnshire, last week came only days after nine people were arrested for human trafficking offences when officers raided a Lincolnshire leek-picking field, rescuing 60 migrant workers.

It is thought the workers, aged 15 to 67, were trapped by the organising gang and forced to work long hours and live in overcrowded accommodation.


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Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, applauded the code's aim of facilitating smooth integration by asking firms to sign up to a range of commitments, from helping staff with local information and language learning to ensuring fair treatment in the workplace and tackling racial discrimination.

She said: “Because of the skills shortage a lot of manufacturing companies in particular have employed migrant workers. Although the code essentially covers best practice already being implemented it sends out an important message so we are happy to support it. A cohesive community is vital for the economic growth of Norfolk.”

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Representatives of the NFU in Norfolk, where thousands of migrant workers are employed on the land during peak periods, were also quick to show support.

Regional spokesman Brian Finnerty said: “A lot of farms already work hard to integrate workers into the community. Many rely on workers coming back two or three years in a row so it is important to look after the workforce.”

Meanwhile NFU horticulture board member Richard Hirst, who runs a farm at Ormesby, near Yarmouth, said: “Anything we can do to make sure everyone employed is treated like a human being and paid a fair wage has to be absolutely right.”

Andrew Sherwood, HR director at Bernard Matthews, which employs 800 Portuguese workers out of a total workforce of 2,661 and takes on a further 500 Portuguese seasonal workers in the run-up to Christmas, said: “We welcome this code, and we hope that every company which employs migrant workers will comply with it.

“We are very proud of the way we recruit, employ and treat our overseas workers. We are already complying with every aspect of the new code, and in fact go beyond its recommendations in many areas.

“Bernard Matthews very much values our overseas colleagues, and we do everything we can to welcome them and help them integrate into the community here in East Anglia. This includes helping with travel and accommodation, providing all sorts of materials in multi-lingual format, and ensuring that our overseas colleagues are treated fairly and equally throughout.”

The code stemmed from a visit to Boston by a group of business leaders to see the impact large influxes of migrant workers has had on the local community.

A study by the East of England Development Agency estimated that 50,000 to 80,000 migrant workers were working in the East of England in 2005. The figure is now thought to be between 100,000 and 120,000.

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