I value the economic and social contributions that migrant workers make to the UK and I strongly agree that being able to strike is a fundamental right.
As you know, migrants working in the UK on Tier 2 skilled worker visas are subject to a 20-day annual limit on unpaid leave from work. I share your concerns about the impact that this limit has on their rights to strike.
Strike action is never taken lightly but these restrictive rules mean migrants who need to take unpaid leave for other reasons – perhaps to look after a sick relative – find themselves unable to participate for fear of breaching the limit and risking their immigration status.
In my view, all staff should be able to play a full part in legitimate strike action without fear of reprisal, regardless of where they are from. I therefore believe that migrant workers should be able to join their colleagues in defending their employment rights.
With Brexit approaching, 2.4 million EU citizens who work in the UK could shortly become subject to the UK’s visa system. I am concerned that if the immigration rules are allowed to restrict their engagement in lawful strike action, our industrial relations will suffer.
International staff need an unequivocal, written guarantee from the Government that days spent taking legitimate strike action will not put their immigration status at risk. A small clarification would make a big difference to the lives of those affected.
I can assure you that I will continue to press the Government for clarity on this issue and for the rights of migrant workers to be protected.
More widely, I also support an end to the entire hostile environment policy towards migrants.