Immigrant rules to be relaxed for nuclear workers
The Herald, June 11 2008
The UK Government is to relax immigration rules in order to fill jobs in the nuclear power industry, it emerged last night.
The Home Office claimed that adding the jobs to the so-called "national shortage list" would help the country get the "right skills". It will mean some 27 employment categories can be filled by workers from anywhere in the world.
Ministers, intent on building a new generation of nuclear power stations and increasing the number of plants beyond the current 10, have already indicated that some 60,000 jobs could be created within the industry, raising its workforce from the current 40,000 to 100,000.
For certain jobs, the UK Government has drawn up a list of skills shortages.
However, it has now added 27 electricity generation engineering jobs - including several nuclear specialisms such as reactor physicists and nuclear design engineers.
This means, under the newly-introduced points-based system, employers will no longer have to carry out a recruitment search within Europe alone but will be able to recruit worldwide.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has already repeated the mantra of "British jobs for British workers" and, to this end, a Nuclear Skills Academy has been set up to train indigenous staff for the industry.
However, the unions fear that the new jobs could go to cheap foreign labour. Gary Smith of the GMB is worried that the relaxation of the immigration rules could undermine the academy's work.
"The nuclear industry is of vital importance to regenerate communities. We would be very, very concerned if people in the communities where the nuclear industry already exists are not going to benefit. That would be a tragic and missed historic opportunity," he said.
Last night, a Home Office spokesman said: "We are determined to ensure that those people coming to work in the UK have the right skills to benefit Britain and are coming here to contribute."
He noted that the Migration Advisory Committee would "in future advise ministers on where migration might sensibly fill gaps in the UK labour market".Any new influx of jobs is unlikely to come to Scotland over the long term as the Scottish Government, which is the final planning authority north of the border, has set its face against any new nuclear build.