What Romania’s minister for labour told me today will have an impact across swathes of UK business and healthcare - he and his government want Romanian workers to return home, where he says a million jobs await them.
The government in Bucharest has launched an advertising campaign to encourage workers home. It is putting in place a range of incentives made up of grants and loans.
Labour minister Marius-Constantin Budăi said: “We want all Romanians to come home if possible”.
For years UK industries, such as construction, hospitality and farming have relied heavily on Eastern Europeans.
They have been vital within the NHS, where 4,451 Romanians work. Already UK farms are reporting big problems; Eastern Europeans account for 67% of seasonal workers in British agriculture.
Farms are reporting that since the Brexit vote many Romanians are staying away. Many Eastern European’s have told me they feel less welcome and the fall in sterling means their earnings are worth far less when they go home.
ITV News attended a recruitment event in Bucharest designed to attract seasonal farm workers to the UK, where there is an 18% shortfall.
Previously, up 800 people attended - only seven turned up when we were there. Farms warn that without workers they will be unable to harvest and British produce will go to waste. Some warn that it could increase prices in the run up to Christmas and put some agricultural business at risk of collapse.
The picture is no less bleak in construction. Recent research showed 28% of London’s building workers are from Eastern Europe. Now places like Bucharest have their own building boom and unemployment is low in most of the region.
What enrages many sectors, including agriculture, is that the UK government won’t allow more non-EU workers into Britain. It has started a pilot scheme for seasonal agriculture workers but has capped numbers at just 2,500 which the sector says is hopelessly inadequate.
There used to be complaints that Eastern European’s were taking our jobs - now there’s increasing concern they’re not.