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Unions representing doctors and teachers have united with migrant organisations to call on the government to reverse plans to increase visa and NHS fees in order to fund public sector pay rises.
Around sixty organisations representing millions of people have branded the Immigration Health Surcharge “unaffordable” and “a blatant attempt to sow division” within the labour movement and communities. It says the government should instead meet pay demands using progressive taxation.
Around half the cost of the recent 5-7% public sector pay rises will be met by a hike of up to 20 per cent in visa fees, and a two-thirds rise in the immigration health surcharge migrants have to pay to use the NHS annually – from £624 to £1,035.
The cost of work and visit visas will rise by 15% – increasing the cost of a skilled worker visa from £625 to £719. And the price of getting British citizenship will go up by at least 20% – increasing from £1,330 to at least £1,596.
“No worker should be pushed into poverty, unsustainable debt or homelessness simply because of the papers they hold,” the joint statement signed by the British Medical Association, teachers union NASUWT and migrant groups says.
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The unions and migrant organisations say Rishi Sunak is attempting to “pit worker against worker”.
The joint statement reiterates that public sector workers deserve pay rises but urged the government to abandon the current plan and instead meet pay demands using progressive taxation “which ensures those with the broadest shoulders contribute more to our vital public services”.
Unions and migrant groups say the NHS surcharge is “discriminatory”. A migrant family of four currently has to pay around £50,000 over 10 years for the right to stay, which is set to increase to around £68,000.
The migrant organisations and charities who signed include the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Migrants Organise, Medact, the Runnymede Trust, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Doctors of the World and Praxis.
Prof Philip Banfield, Chair of Council at BMA, said: “The proposed increase in the charges on migrant health workers to pay for the government’s already-compromised pay deal is frankly shameful.
He added that the NHS should be funded from general taxation – not charges that “unfairly target individual groups”.
Claiming to use the surcharge to fund an “inadequate” pay offer is “especially insulting,” he said.
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary at the National Education Union, which represents hundreds of thousands of teachers in England and Wales, said: “Whilst we have been assured that the extra £900 million for the teachers’ pay award isn’t funded via the higher migrant fees, we do stand in complete solidarity with sister unions in their strong objections to the government seeking to sow divisions with this policy.
“The government should fund all our public services properly and proper funding should be viewed as an investment in our country.”
And Aliya Yule, a healthcare organiser at Migrants Organise, said: “The NHS is indebted to migrants, and it was founded on the principle that everyone should be able to access healthcare, regardless of ability to pay or where you are from. The Immigration Health Surcharge undermines these principles, and it is important that the labour and migrant justice movements stand together in the face of this government’s attacks.”
A second joint statement against the use of “racist charges” in the immigration system was signed by nearly 3000 individuals, including Members of Parliament and the House of Lords, as well as trade union members – saying that increasing healthcare charges for migrants would further undermine the foundations the NHS was built on.
They called the move “a clear attempt to make migrant communities pay the price for decades of Government underfunding of our public services, and declining pay”.
Rishi Sunak told a recent press conference: “What we have done are two things to find this money. The first is we’re going to increase the charges that we have for migrants who are coming to this country when they apply for visas.
“And indeed, something called the immigration health surcharge, which is the levy that they pay to access the NHS. So all of those fees are going to go up and that will raise over £1 billion… I’m not shying away from that, because that’s the right thing to do.”
The unions and migrant organisations’ statement on the public sector pay rise is signed by the following organisations
- British Medical Association
- The GMB
- NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union
- The National Education Union (NEU)
- Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)
- UCU – University and College Union
- Society of Radiologists
- Social Workers Union
- Fire Brigades Union (FBU)
- Asylum Matters
- Bradford Rape Crisis
- CARIS Haringey
- Caritas Shrewsbury
- Doctors of the World
- Duhra Solicitors
- English for Action (EFA) London
- Evesham Vale Welcomes Refugees
- Fresh Grassroots Rainbow Community
- Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group
- Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU)
- Haringey Welcome
- Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)
- Kent Refugee Help
- Kiran Support services
- Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS)
- Leeds Anti-Raids Action
- Maternity Action
- Maternity Stream, City of Sanctuary UK
- Migrant Voice
- Migrants Organise
- Migrants’ Rights Network
- Music Action International
- Pan-African Workers Association (PAWA)
- Paul Hamlyn Foundation
- POMOC (Polish Migrants Organise for Change)
- Positive Action For Refugees and Asylum Seekers (PAFRAS)
- Project 17
- Public Interest Law Centre
- RAMA (Refugee, Asylum seeker & Migrant Action)
- Refugee and Migrants Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL)
- Refugee, Asylum Seeker and Migrant Action (RAMA)
- Reunite Families UK
- Right to Remain
- Runnymede Trust
- South London Refugee Association
- The Unity Project
- The Voice of Domestic Workers
- United impact
- We Belong
- Welsh Refugee Council
- Women’s Budget Group
- Yorkshire Migrants Solidarity Movement
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