Election 2017

New government ‘must deal with labour shortages’

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Horticulture will be ‘devastated’ without a quota-based workers’ scheme
Horticulture will be ‘devastated’ without a quota-based workers’ scheme

Related tags: Labour providers, United kingdom

The next UK government has been urged to address the “impending labour shortages” faced by the food industry pre- and post-Brexit, after the immigration minister claimed the problem had been overstated.

The Association of Labour Providers (ALP) has called on whoever gets elected on June 8 to design a model seasonal workers’ permit-based quota scheme to avoid the “devastating impact”​ a failing UK horticultural sector would have on the food supply chain.

The ALP made its comments in evidence submitted to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee inquiry into the challenges to the food supply chain from shortages of workers.

Fears about the labour market

It followed oral evidence given in March to the EFRA Committee by Robert Goodwill, minister of state for immigration at the Home Office. Goodwill said fears about the labour market had proven to be “a bit of a scare story”,​ adding that “we have not seen people being deterred from coming here”.

Goodwill justified his argument by referring to the latest net migration figures, which for the EU ran at 165,000 for the year to September 2016. Overall net migration figures were 273,000 for the same period.

Last month, the ALP submitted a further evidence-based submission to the inquiry, which included the results of a survey of its members. It found that 21% of labour providers did not expect to be able to source sufficient workers this summer.

Quality of labour was worse

Furthermore, the survey revealed a third of labour providers believed the quality of labour was worse than 12 months ago – in contrast to fewer than one in 10 that said it was better. Meanwhile, four out of 10 client businesses have had to increase wage rates to attract workers.

“Government should not wait for labour supply to the UK horticultural sector to fail before rushing in a hasty and ill-thought-through seasonal agricultural workers’ scheme,”​ said ALP chief executive David Camp.

“Whether introduced in 2018 or 2019, such a scheme will be needed in the foreseeable future. ALP and other industry trade bodies will support the government in designing a model scheme.”

For the latest career opportunities in food and drink manufacturing, visit FoodManJobs​. 

Related topics: People & Skills

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