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Foreign flood continues

Recruitment firm opens second office as number of foreign workers on UK sites grows

THE BOOMING number of foreign workers on British construction sites has prompted a recruitment agency to open a second office dealing with builders from eastern Europe.

Options will open the office at Southampton in April, which will cater for workers from Latvia, Lithuania and Russia.

The firm already has a similar office up and running in Watford. Headed by a Latvian, Alex Panders, it is targeting workers from the former Soviet bloc.

Options has also linked up with an employment firm in Latvia to prepare men for work on construction sites in this country. A team from Options is due to fly to the Baltic state later this month.

Scott Benton, operations director for Options' construction division, said: 'We have already had 70 people come over so far and we expect more.'

He added that all workers are given a health and safety manual and a dictionary of construction terms.

Mr Benton said: 'If they can't understand health and safety instructions, they are not much use to us. We go back to them at regular intervals to make sure they are making progress.'

He was speaking as the industry continues to debate who should pay to make sure foreign workers understand safety messages on site.

Recent figures show that nearly 20 per cent of all operatives on London sites are foreign workers.

Last month, chairman of the Construction Skills Certification Scheme, Tony Merricks, said employment agencies had a duty to foot the bill.

And Mr Benton said it was up to the agencies to make sure foreign operatives could understand English.

He added: 'If we are going to supply people, they should be fit to go on site.'

Options has also linked up with the Barbados government, to place a dozen apprentices, including bricklayers and electricians, from local colleges on British sites this summer.