Plans to impose a £30,000 salary “barrier” on unskilled workers could create new job opportunities for locals in Dundee, according to a senior council official.
Senior council worker Andrea Calder told elected officials this week that locals could fill the gaps left behind by EU workers who may no longer be eligible for some jobs post-Brexit.
Under plans originally introduced by Theresa May and later kept by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the government is considering maintaining a £30,000 “salary threshold” for skilled workers looking to come to the UK from the continent after Brexit.
This threshold already applies to non-EU workers but did not apply to European migrants under freedom of movement rules.
Post-Brexit, it is expected that all international workers who plan to live and work in the UK long-term would have to be doing a skilled job and earning a minimum of £30,000 a year to be eligible.
Critics of the proposals say that vital jobs in sectors such as health and social care and agricultural work, which have large migrant workforces and pay salaries below the threshold, would suffer under this regime.
But Ms Calder, head of chief executive services, suggested in response that such a cap could in fact benefit locals seeking work.
She said: “We hope there would be some play in that (cap). In Dundee there are sectors like health and social care and tourism and we’re talking with those areas about what the impacts may be.
“We’re looking at the opportunities for local people to look into some different jobs as well as protecting a diverse workforce from other areas.”
Mr Johnson said during the election campaign that those with “exceptional talents” such as “violinists, nuclear physicists (and) prima ballerinas” would be allowed to come to the UK, as would skilled workers who had offers of jobs.
Unskilled workers would be given short-term visas to work in sectors where there was a workforce shortage.
A Brexit update delivered to elected members in Dundee this week has warned that local employers may “struggle to operate” due to the “important role” migrant workers play in the local economy.
Chief executive David Martin wrote in the report: “The key message from employers across Dundee is that levels of pay below the proposed threshold does not equate to low skill or low value.
“Indeed, without access to core staff who are paid less than the proposed threshold, then many of our highly innovative, technological companies would struggle to operate.”
Broughty Ferry Liberal Democrat councillor Craig Duncan is among those who is concerned at the “astonishing” suggestion that workers should earn £30,000 or more a year to be considered – Scotland’s average salary in 2018 was £23,833.
He added: “I would contend that a lot of people in Dundee would be delighted to be on £30,000 a year. 50% of all employees aren’t on this amount of money – so where does this leave Dundee?”
Councillor Will Dawson, chairman of the local authority’s cross-party Brexit working group, is to write to both the UK and Scottish Governments seeking assurances for the city’s post-EU future, including its involvement in the Erasmus student exchange programme.
The Home Office is awaiting the conclusions of the independent Migration Advisory Committee before making a final decision on the cap.
A spokeswoman said: “We are delivering on the people’s priorities and introducing a firmer and fairer Australian-style points-based immigration system in 2021.
“As we end free movement, the new system will allow us to decide who comes to this country on the basis of the skills they have and the contribution they can make – not where they come from.
“We expect the Migration Advisory Committee to report back by the end of January 2020 and we will consider carefully their recommendations before making any decisions.”