Following the May 2004 EU accession of Eastern European workers (A8s), the UK witnessed its largest ever in-migration, with the Poles the largest ever single ethnic group (Salt and Millar, 2006). This migration took all by surprise and left many at a local level having to ‘fire-fight’ the numerous issues that have arisen. Migration has been dramatic for many small towns and villages in the north of England, with the Worker Registration Scheme (WRS) accession monitoring reports stating that the North has a larger number of registered A8 workers than are registered in London and the South East. Discussion here is based on a series of projects that the author has undertaken tracking A8 and Polish migration to the north of England (Fitzgerald, 2005; 2006; 2007a; 2007b; 2008; Banks of the Wear, 2007). The main underlying aim of the research has been to identify trade union engagement with newly arrived Polish migrant workers in the north of England, in particular in North East and North West construction. The approach to the research has been a key respondent and action research approach. This has meant undertaking over 60 interviews with key contacts who are engaged with A8 and Polish migrants. In particular it has involved interviews with construction personnel and participation in: site meetings with teams of Polish workers; trade union construction representatives; and a mass meeting of Polish workers. The focus of the construction projects was to identify how Polish workers were obtaining their employment in the sector and how employers were treating these workers.
|Published - 2007