Life isn't always rosy

PUBLISHED: 18:21 14 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:20 04 May 2010

BUT life isn t always rosy for migrant workers, according to Beverley Howard the manager of Ely Citizen s Advice Bureau. The problem is not with large employers such as Gs, she claims, but with smaller businesses who are not necessarily aware of employmen

BUT life isn't always rosy for migrant workers, according to Beverley Howard the manager of Ely Citizen's Advice Bureau. The problem is not with large employers such as Gs, she claims, but with smaller businesses who are not necessarily aware of employment legislation.

"Low pay in itself is less of an issue than workers not being paid what they are due, if they move on to new jobs, for example, or are owed sick or holiday pay. Obviously in these cases the language barrier creates an extra level of misunderstanding. There is a legal remedy, though, as long as they come to us," she says.

"We've found that there tend to be low wages around here because a lot of the jobs are agricultural, but unpaid wages is a more common issue. They are unskilled jobs, but the people doing them aren't necessarily unskilled."

Last year, the CAB relied on the services of three volunteer interpreters to help Portuguese, Lithuanian and Polish workers, but they have now moved on. "Now, we often ask people to bring a friend with them, someone they trust," says Mrs Howard, "but again, this lengthens the process for further correspondence or if they need to go away and get documents. What we're seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of people don't realise our service exists, or don't realise that it is free," said Mrs Howard.

The vast majority of immigrants through the CAB's doors are Portuguese, Polish and Lithuanian. Mrs Howard notes: "We saw more Portuguese two years ago. They have perhaps become more integrated, whereas we still see a steady stream of Polish people, and the Portuguese people we are seeing now, have problems that are reflected in the rest of the population, such as rising levels of debt."

Migrant workers have access to an CAB outreach service in Soham, which is now in jeopardy after the county council withdrew £21,000 worth of funding to the charitable organisation last year. "There are certainly a lot of migrant workers out there, and we want to be able to be at the centre of the community," said Mrs Howard. "We are currently funding the Soham service out of our own reserves, and its future is uncertain.

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