During the UK’s largest university strike in recent history, this spring, questions were raised about migrants’ right to strike versus the strict requirements of their visas. This situation was applicable to non-EEA migrants, whose Tier-2 and 5 sponsorships include limits on unpaid leave.
Asked to clarify the issue, which is not specifically considered in the sponsorship guidelines, Home Secretary Sajid Javid pledged that the right to strike for migrants would be specifically enshrined in new rules.
“Following a recent strike by university lecturers, a number of Honourable Members have raised concerns about the position of migrant workers who engage in legal strike action and whether this affects their immigration status.
It is not the Government’s policy to prevent migrant workers from engaging in legal strike action; and, to date, I am not aware of any case where a migrant worker has had their leave curtailed, or been removed, as a result of having engaged in legal industrial action. However, to put the matter beyond doubt, I will be making changes to the guidance and Immigration Rules for migrant workers (under the Tier 2 and 5 immigration routes) and their sponsors.
The specific change will add legal strike action to the list of exceptions to the rule on absences from employment without pay for migrant workers. It will make clear that there will be no immigration consequences for any migrant worker who takes part in legal strike action in the same way that a migrant worker is not disadvantaged if they take maternity or paternity leave.
This will ensure that non-EEA migrants can take part in legal industrial action along with their British and European colleagues.”
The changes to the sponsor guidance will be made shortly and amendments to the Immigration Rules will be made at the next available opportunity in the Autumn.
This commitment will no doubt be particularly welcome by migrant-led unions such as the IWGB and UVW: they have been at the forefront of organising migrant workers, whose precarious employment situation was often reinforced by insecurities related to immigration status.