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Human Trafficking/Worker Exploitation: Exploitation Of/Crimes Against Migrant Workers

Research Statement

Dr Ian Fitzgerald, Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University

This research statement outlines my research, practitioner and government engagement with regard to migrant workers over the last twelve years[1]. The research undertaken evidences the need for the scope of the treaty to be determined by a need to protect individuals and communities against a wide range of harm, sometimes through legal action by courts other than criminal tribunals.

Knowledge and Research

Over the last 12 years Ian has undertaken 16 research projects with regard to European immigrant workers that have engaged with practitioners and government.  Research carried out between 2005 and 2007 provided for the first time a robust evidence-base for the often unethical and at times illegal treatment of Polish workers in the North of England.  This led to a greater recognition of the problem by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and other UK unions, resulting in more strategic approaches to supporting migrant workers to achieve better working conditions.  His action research projects for the TUC revealed that many Polish workers were both the victims of crimes and other forms of serious harm that are not necessarily dealt with by criminal courts: underpayment, illegal employment contracts and poor housing conditions, in addition to some being the victims of violent employers.  These projects also led him to be involved with local, regional and national government with regard to the impact of CEE workers in the region and their entrepreneurialism.  This was followed by work that detailed Central and Eastern European migration to the north and the integration challenges this posed.  Regionally his research influenced policy at the Regional Development Agency North East Migration Steering Group and nationally he was asked to provide a submission to the Economic Affairs Committee[2].  He has also twice been invited to be a national UK expect for the European Commission with regard to the Posted Workers Directive 96/71/EC and the Posting of Workers Enforcement Directive 2014/67/EU[3].

His recent research has led to engagement with local and regional Polish communities and a role as Patron of Pegaz a North East Polish Community Association.  As well as executive board membership of the North East Race, Crime and Justice Regional Research Network (NERCJRRN)[4].  NERCJRRN involves engagement with over 100 regional policy markers, the PCC, police and NGOs at a local level though its steering group and via its North East Race Equality Forum (NEREF)[5].  Two projects in particular, undertaken jointly with the Polish Academy of Sciences (Warsaw), have identified hate crime towards Polish communities in the North pre and post Referendum.  Findings were presented as research briefings for the NERCJRRN[6] and in Polish via Polish language, Polish administered websites in the north of England (for further details of websites see Fitzgerald et al, 2012).  He was also a keynote speaker at the recent Challenging Race Hate Crime Event held at Newcastle University.  Prior to this he was involved in organising the Northumbria University hosted NEREF and PCC Hate Crime Conference October 2015[7].

Selected References to Research


Fitzgerald, I. and Smoczyński, R. (2017) ‘Central and Eastern European Accession: Changing Perspectives on Migrant Workers’, Social Policy and Society, 16 (4) 659-668.

Smoczyński, R., Fitzgerald, I. and Zarycki, T. (2016) ‘The intelligentsia informed habitus in social distance strategies of Polish migrants in the UK’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 40 (6) 951-968.

Fitzgerald, I. and Smoczyński R. (2015) ‘Anti-Polish migrant moral panic in the UK: Rethinking employment insecurities and moral regulation’, Czech Sociological Review, 51 (3) 339-361.

Fitzgerald, I., Martinez Lucio, M. and Hardy, J. (2012) ‘The Internet, employment and Polish migrant workers: Communication, activism and competition in the new organisational spaces’, New Technology Work and Employment, 27 (2): 93–105.

Fitzgerald, I. and Hardy, J. (2010) ‘‘Thinking Outside the Box’? Trade Union Organising Strategies and Polish Migrant Workers in the United Kingdom’, British Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol. 48 (1): 131–150.

Fitzgerald, I. (2009) ‘Polish migrant workers in the North - New communities, new opportunities?’, in J. McBride and I. Greenwood (eds.) Community Unionism: A Comparative Analysis of Concepts and Contexts, Palgrave: London: 93–119.

Research Projects

Fitzgerald, I. and Smoczyński R. (2016) EU Referendum and Polish migrants in the North of England, joint Northumbria University and Polish Academy of Sciences project.

Fitzgerald, I. and Smoczyński R. (2012) Societal reactions toward Polish economic migrants in Northern England after 2004, Award from the National Science Centre Poland.

Fitzgerald, I. (2012) Study on the protection of workers’ rights in subcontracting processes in the European Union, European Commission Project No. VC/2011/0015 (UK national expert).

Fitzgerald, I. (2012) The free movement of Lithuanian citizens to the UK, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors Principal expert submission in the case of Biznia v Razgulajevs High Court of Justice case No.1BM90018, December 2012.

Fitzgerald, I. (2011) The impact of migrant workers on the functioning of labour markets and industrial relations, ESRC Award number RES-451-26-0779.

Fitzgerald, I. (2010) Improving best practices on the working and living conditions of posted workers, European Federation of Building and Wood Workers, European Commission Project No. VS/2009/0475 (UK national expert).

Fitzgerald, I. (2010) General Federation of Trade Unions Vulnerable Workers Project, BERR Union Modernisation Fund Project Round 3.

Fitzgerald, I. (2007 and 2008) Analysis of the North East Worker Registration Scheme Data: Briefing paper and evidence for the North East Migration Steering Group, ONE NorthEast funded projects.

Fitzgerald, I. (2007) Enterprise for BME Communities, Refugees and Migrants, ONE NorthEast funded project.


Dr Ian Fitzgerald (Reader and Associate Professor)

Dr Ian Fitzgerald is Head of the Human Resource Management, Work and Employment subject group at NBS, Business and Law Faculty, Northumbria University.  He comes from a traditional branch of social science that seeks to ‘think outside of the box’.  Therefore, his research is multidisciplinary and endeavours to bring new ideas to research, working with practitioners to find practical solutions that can be implemented.  He has undertaken a growing number of research projects in three main areas.  The first social dialogue at a European level involved initial engagement with the Commission and trade union practitioners at a regional, national and European level.  The second concerned research into North East regional economic development and involved engagement with regional government agencies, trade unions and NGOs. The third with foreign and Polish workers involved pioneering work and he has produced over 40 peer-reviewed publications, invited contributions and practitioner publications that have been cited over 500 times.

Ian has been invited to speak at a number of high profile academic and practitioner events in the UK and in Europe.  Engagement has also involved expert membership of several vulnerable workers steering groups[8] and of a European Federation of Building and Wood Workers research executive[9].  Prior to becoming an academic, Ian owned his own printing business in the City of London and before that worked as an economic development officer for the GLC.


[2] Economic Affairs Committee (2007) The Economic Impact of Immigration, invited expert submission provided to the Economic Affairs Committee SC/07‐08/EA30: House of Lords November 2007.

[3] For further details of research discussed see http://impact.ref.ac.uk/CaseStudies/CaseStudy.aspx?Id=35155

[8] Steering Group Member, General Federation of Trade Unions Vulnerable Workers [migrant workers] project, BIS Union Modernisation Fund; and Steering Group Member, Northern TUC Vulnerable and Migrant Workers Project;

[9] UK Executive Member, European Institute for Construction Labour Research.