By Jason Groves for the Daily Mail 01:14 14 Dec 2013, updated 01:14 14 Dec 2013
- The Unite union is Labour's biggest donor
- It offers the advice as a reward for signing up to the union
- It has even issued membership forms in Romanian and Bulgarian
The Unite union is offering to teach unemployed Romanians and Bulgarians how to claim benefits in Britain.
The organisation, Labour’s biggest donor, is courting foreigners from the two countries as part of a membership drive.
Union Baron: Unite's leader Len McCluskey
It offers the advice as a reward for signing up to the union.
It has even issued membership forms in Romanian and Bulgarian, despite the Government – and Labour – saying immigrants should learn English.
The unemployed are offered the chance to join the union for just 50p a week. In return, Unite says it will offer new arrivals with advice on how to maximise benefit claims.
The decision to target Romanians and Bulgarians is sure to be controversial, given public concern about the lifting of immigration controls on the two new EU countries at the end of this month.
Ministers have refused to estimate how many immigrants will arrive from the two impoverished countries – but some experts believe it could run to hundreds of thousands in the coming years.
Tory MP Priti Patel called Unite’s behaviour shameless, adding: ‘It is incredibly irresponsible and I’m afraid it just sums up the attitude of Labour and the trade unions towards EU immigration.
‘Labour is the party that opened the floodgates to EU immigration with its open borders policy.
Now their allies in the union movement are basically encouraging people to come here, and offering them advice on how to exploit our benefits system when they arrive. It gives the lie to the idea that Labour is finally getting serious about immigration.’
In recent years Unite, led by Len McCluskey, has directly targeted immigrant workers in a bid to swell its membership – and coffers.
The UK borders will be flung open this year as Romanians and Bulgarians will have access to the job market
In 2011 its political officer Clare Moody met with Alexandru Petrescu and Ciprian Bolos, the UK representatives of Romania’s Social Democratic Party, in a bid to urge migrant workers to
join the British union.
The union now issues its membership forms in a range of foreign languages, including those of countries whose workers do not have an automatic right to work in this country, such as Ukraine, Turkey and China.
LESSONS IN HANDOUTS
A union representative at Unite’s London office explained to Romanian national Diana Petrescu in a phone conversation that, after signing up as a member for just 50p per week, she would receive help in finding work, housing and how to claim benefits:
Diana Petrescu: ‘I am from Romania and I have just moved to London three weeks ago. I do not have a job and am looking for help to settle in and find a job. Can I join the union?
UNITE official Karen: ‘Yes, everyone is welcome.’
DP: ‘Can you help me settle into the country?
KAREN: ‘You can send your CV, the officials can look at it and help you to find a job. We also offer a service that shows what benefits you are entitled to.’
The forms include details of its controversial ‘community’ branch, which is aimed at the unemployed.
The organisation was launched last year to ‘provide a way people can find and use their political voice’. Membership costs 50p a week, and includes a free ‘welfare benefits check-up. which makes sure you’re claiming the right benefits’.
Members are also offered free personal injury advice to pursue compensation claims.
Tory MP Aidan Burley said: ‘[Unite] would rather swell their membership coffers by encouraging new immigrants to claim the maximum amount of benefits, than represent their members – many of whom will be concerned about their own jobs being taken by these migrant workers.
‘Rather than helping Romanians and Bulgarians claim more benefits, Unite should concentrate on reforming its own working practices to ensure British firms can stay competitive and jobs remain with the best British workers.’
A Unite spokesman stressed that migrant workers are ‘all too often exploited by unscrupulous bosses, sometimes with tragic consequences’, citing the Morecambe Bay tragedy in which 23 Chinese cockle-pickers drowned.
‘Unite members, no matter what their nationality, can access and be signposted to advice on a whole host of issues,’ they added.
‘Are the Tories seriously accusing Unite and the likes of Citizens Advice of encouraging an influx of migrant workers because we signpost them to advice to stop them being exploited?’