New European legislation to crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers may inadvertently make it more difficult to fight explotation, European civil rights organisations warn in a statement today.
Tougher employer sanctions may be ineffective because ‘the profits that can be made by hiring flexible and cheap undocumented workers outweigh by far the risk of being sanctioned’, they argue. On the other hand, tougher sanctions could make employers unwilling to hire foreign-looking workers, thus worsening labour market discrimination.
However, the organisations do appreciate the fact that the new directive will make it easier for undocumented workers to claim back wages and to lodge complaints through third parties, such as volunteer organisations or trade unions. “Having adopted this Directive, the European Parliament, along with the other EU institutions, now have an obligation to remain vigilant in monitoring and ensuring that such protective measures do in fact have the intended effect of ensuring that employers, not migrants, pay the price of exploitation”.
One of the signatories of the statement, Picum, published a report on protecting undocumented workers in 2005. The report found that unions can play a crucial role in fighting exploitation of undocumented workers and that doing so is also in the interest of other workers.