Business Leaders’ Forum

FDF boss urges PM to offer labour supply assurances

By Michael Stones contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: United kingdom

The UK food industry urgently needs assurances from the prime minister about the security of EU nationals working in the UK after Brexit, says Food and Drink Federation (FDF) director general Ian Wright.

“We must have some certainty about the labour market – whether the people are here already can stay,”​ Wright told FoodManufacture.co.uk in this exclusive video interview filmed at Food Manufacture’s Business Leaders’ Forum on Tuesday (January 24).

“And we must know what the arrangements are for retaining people and for refuelling the labour market​ [with workers from the EU and elsewhere], as people go home. And this has to be set in the context of an ageing UK workforce.”

An extra 130,000 workers

The FDF has estimated the food and drink manufacturing sector will need to recruit an extra 130,000 workers by 2024 in order to plug the gap in its workforce. EU nationals, particularly from eastern Europe, make a key contribution to the whole food chain, focusing fears on their ability to work in the UK after Brexit.

“Our customers are going to require labour force certainty,”​ said Wright. “We require labour force certainty and our suppliers require labour force certainty. So, it’s not just the manufacturing sector, it’s the whole food chain.”

‘It’s the whole food chain’

In this wide-ranging interview, Wright also highlighted how multi-national food manufacturers – with highly-integrated supply chains involving the movement of pre-finished goods across borders – might be hit by punitive tariffs, depending on the nature of the Brexit deal.

“And if they can’t organise themselves in order to deal with that, they will almost certainly have to leave the UK as a manufacturer,”​ said the FDF boss.

The Food Manufacture Group’s Business Leaders’ Forum​ was held at the London office of host sponsor law firm DWF. Other sponsors included: RSA Insurance Group, packaging specialist Charpak and analytical testing provider ALS Life Sciences UK.

Meanwhile, watch out next week for more multi-media reports on FoodManufacture.co.uk and in the February edition of Food Manufacture​.

  • This video was filmed and edited by Matt Atherton.

‘Labour force certainty’

“Our customers are going to require labour force certainty​. We require labour force certainty and our suppliers require labour force certainty. So, it’s not just the manufacturing sector, it’s the whole food chain.”

  • Ian Wright

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