Building sites will be targeted by immigration officers this autumn as government officials crack down on illegal migrant workers.
The Times reported that ministers have targeted the construction, care and cleaning industries as they try and create a ‘hostile environment’ for illegal migration.
Immigration minister James Brokenshire said: “Rogue employers who give jobs to illegal migrants are denying work to UK citizens and legal migrants and helping drive down wages.”
He added: “Employers who are prepared to cheat employment rules are also likely to breach health and safety rules and pay insufficient tax.
“That’s why our new approach will be to use the full force of government machinery to hit them from all angles.”
The Times reported that the raids would involve HM Revenue & Customs, the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority (GLA), the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, the Care Quality Commission and the Health and Safety Executive.
Companies can be fined up to £20,000 for each illegal person they employ.
Construction union UCATT has criticised the announcement, claiming it will do little to solve the problem of illegal workers.
Brian Rye, National Secretary of UCATT, said: “This is an announcement designed to achieve headlines rather than deal with the problem of exploitation and illegality in the construction industry.
“If the government was serious they would adopt properly preventative measures to stop this kind of abuse from occurring in the first place. The most obvious policy is to extend the Gangmasters Act to construction to prevent rogue employers from entering the industry in the first place.”
The Gangmasters Act is currently limited to workers operating in agriculture, food processing and shellfish collection. Under the Act, companies have to be licensed to provide labour and the company receiving the labour is also responsible for ensuring they use a licensed provider.
Mr Rye added: “The frequent manner in which workers move location in construction means the only truly effective way to deal with problems of exploitation and illegal working is to prevent the rogues entering the industry in the first place.”
Construction News reported last month that legal migration from the EU8 (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovak Republic and Slovenia) has increased significantly since 2013, and between March 2014 and March 2015 alone, it has grown by 17 per cent.
The number of workers in the UK born in these countries has increased by 37 per cent since January 2013.