Government urged to take ‘urgent action’ to solve labour shortages

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

ALP boss David Camp calls for 'urgent strategic collaboration'
ALP boss David Camp calls for 'urgent strategic collaboration'

Related tags: Supply chain

The Association of Labour Providers (ALP) has called on the Government to take urgent action to fix the UK labour shortage.

The trade body representing businesses that source and supply the UK’s food workers, has written to ministers asking for immediate and urgent collaboration to ease the labour shortages faced by UK food businesses.

It made the call after the debate on recruitment support for the agriculture sector last week where the Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Victoria Prentis MP said: “Indeed, we have ambitions in DEFRA to increase food production—particularly in areas such as fruit and veg, where we traditionally have low levels.”

Concerns over the labour shortages has been an issue that has been plaguing the sector. A new report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee found that food and drink manufacturing industry faces permanent damage​ if the Government fails to address the lack of workers available. 

Biggest issue

David Camp, ALP chief executive, said it was time for Government to fix the biggest issue affecting UK food production.

“The UK food and farming workforce keeps our nation fed,”​ said Camp. 

“Hailed as ‘Britain’s Food Heroes’ during the pandemic, this workforce is often taken for granted; that is until supermarket shelves run empty. Whilst we welcome the ambition of the minister, with 1.26m people unemployed and 1.3m job vacancies, there are simply not enough workers for essential sectors like ours, and we need Government to work with the food industry to fix this.’’ 

The ALP’s May 2022 Food Labour Market Survey found that almost half (49%) of UK food growers and manufacturers have rationalised or reduced their output owing to labour shortages. Over three quarters (77%) of these businesses are experiencing shortages of lower and unskilled workers, with 45% stating that these shortages are chronic.

Frustration

ALP also quoted the August 2021 Establishing the labour availability issues of the UK Food and Drink Sector repor​t identified “potentially in excess of 500,000 job vacancies” from a workforce of 4.1m, equivalent to a 12.5% structural vacancy rate.

“The Government claims they are listening; this is not the experience of the food industry. The mood amongst growers and producers is one of frustration, exasperation and anger,” he added. 

The ALP is asking the Government for urgent strategic collaboration with the food industry to address labour shortages around a five-point plan:

  1. A national plan to attract domestic resident workers to the UK food industry
  2. Immediate release of this season’s 10,000 agreed seasonal worker visas and work to identify the actual number needed for this and future years
  3. Extend the seasonal worker route to other key sectors such as meat and poultry processing
  4. Match Skilled Worker visa language requirements with those needed for the job
  5. Improve the processing speed of all worker visa routes

Related topics: People & Skills

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