Coronavirus impact: meat industry bodies renew part-furloughing calls

By Rod Addy contact

- Last updated on GMT

Allowing workers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic to be part-furloughed would help the industry and the taxpayer
Allowing workers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic to be part-furloughed would help the industry and the taxpayer

Related tags: Meat & Seafood, Finance

Coronavirus' impact on meat processors has prompted trade bodies to call for the Government to allow firms to ‘part furlough’ some staff.

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said the move would help support manufacturers that were supplying foodservice customers and ease the burden of financing them on taxpayers.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak should immediately modify the Job Retention Scheme to allow businesses in designated key industries to ‘part furlough’ staff for some, but not all, of their working week, the BMPA stated.

Food businesses that had been heavily impacted by the closure of the restaurant and foodservice sector would win by not having to completely close down, the association claimed. The public would win by retaining vital supplies and services and taxpayers would win by reducing the bill for wage subsidies which, according to the Resolution Foundation, were on track to be at least three times higher than original Treasury calculations.

‘All or nothing measure’

“There are hundreds of businesses in key industries whose operations have been curtailed but are still able (and required) to continue operating to keep vital supplies and services going,"​ said BMPA chief executive Nick Allen. "However, the current furloughing scheme is an all or nothing measure; staff can either work 100% of the time or they have to cease work entirely.

“For many businesses this is proving to be a blunt instrument, because reducing production isn’t as simple as chopping out half a workforce. Maintaining operations requires a broad range of staff but for less time. My industry, along with many key industries, cannot understand why this simple idea is not getting traction and we would urge the Chancellor to consider making this small change to the Job Retention Scheme in order to unlock some big wins.”

Following Radio 4 Today ​programme's coverage of calls for flexibility in the furlough scheme on 13 April, the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) tweeted:

Meanwhile, concerns about supply balance in the meat and dairy industries is growing as suppliers lose foodservice business​.

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