Polish and Lithuanian Workers: Opportunities and Challenges for Trades Unions

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This research project, conducted in collaboration with the Trades Union Congress (TUC), aimed to explore the kinds of difficulties experienced by Polish and Lithuanian workers in the labour market, and their potential for joining trades unions. It was motivated by the accession of the "A8" countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) to the European Union on 1 May 2004, which allowed workers from these nations to work in the UK, so long as they registered their employment with the Workers Registration Scheme (WRS).

According to Home Office figures, about 345,000 workers from the A8 states registered for employment during the period between May 2004 and December 2005. The largest nationality represented was Poles (59%). On receipt of registration documentation, workers were given an English language leaflet from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) outlining their rights as workers. They could also request a version of the leaflet in their first language.

In light of this, the research sought to identify who among registered Polish and Lithuanian workers in the UK joined a trades union and why; what the obstacles were to joining a trades union; the sectors in which prospective union members were working; and the kinds of difficulties that Polish and Lithuanian workers faced in their employment relations and conditions.

Principal Investigator

Bridget Anderson


Nick Clark (Public and Commercial Services Union)
Violetta Parutis (University College London)


Trades Union Congress