The Socialist 19 August 2015 |
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Government discrimination against EU workers
Phil Bishop, Bristol North Branch
Tory attacks on the most vulnerable in society are gathering pace. The savage cuts in benefits show how vicious this government is. All this austerity is to bail out their rich friends.
Now they are tightening the screws even more. In Bristol, two Socialist Party members and their families are having their very right to live and work in the UK threatened. Both are European Union (EU) nationals with children, who came to the UK to work.
Unfortunately both lost their jobs when the company shut down and temporary contracts ended. Consequently, they claimed Jobseeker's Allowance and other benefits.
However, rules relating to claims by EU nationals and the right to reside (ie live and work here) were changed in April 2014, limiting their entitlement to a maximum of six months. After that period not only do their benefits cease but they also lose the right to reside.
Only if they can show a "genuine prospect of work" will this be extended, at the discretion of the Department for Work and Pensions. This appears to mean an offer of a job, nothing less.
So, thousands of EU nationals who live and work here, if they lose their job, are in danger of effectively being deported.
A sympathetic Jobcentre adviser told us that in February of this year they received a confidential memo. It stated that all EU nationals making a claim should be reviewed every three months, including those who have a claim that began before 1 April 2014. This may be illegal.
We also know of a Spanish national, resident and employed in the UK for 30 years and married to a UK national, who has been told he is no longer entitled to benefits.
While central government will save money, cash-strapped local councils will bear the brunt of housing and supporting those affected.
The Tory leader of Kent County Council, interviewed on BBC Radio 4, admitted that the new measures were about saving money. But he also pointed out that local councils have a duty of care to homeless and vulnerable people, especially where children were involved.
This is also political. The Tories are trying to outdo Ukip with their anti-migrant worker policies, with one eye on the coming EU referendum. But these are real people's lives they are playing with.
Both cases have been taken up with their local MPs, and we will be holding a public meeting to raise awareness of these issues.
We aim to organise solidarity action elsewhere and to provide a political answer to the system that blames ordinary working people for the crisis, instead of the capitalists.
Tories attack both UK workers and migrants
The government is planning new restrictions on EU migrant workers claiming in-work benefits, such as tax credits.
Its election manifesto said a Tory government would stop EU migrant workers claiming benefits for the first four years.
However, this would be discriminatory under EU law. Therefore, the government also intends to stop Britons aged 18 to 22 (around 55,000 young workers) claiming benefits - another attack on young people.
Labour, in its bid to jump on the migrant worker bashing bandwagon, has proposed a two-year ban.
Anyone who works in the UK should be entitled to work-related benefits, irrespective of their nationality and age.