Trade bodies call on Government to address shortage of skilled butchers
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) and the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) are calling on Government to help keep production lines operating by adding butchers to the Shortage Occupation List which is used to vet skilled migrants.
The move comes after growing concerns that the British meat processing industry is facing a shortage of skilled workers.
Nick Allen, CEO of the BMPA said: “The British meat processing industry is a strategically important cornerstone of the UK food supply chain and we can see an opportunity to strengthen it by offering career opportunities to both British and overseas workers, all of whom are equally vital.
“But in order to do that, we need the category of ‘Butcher’ to be added to the Shortage Occupation List.
“The Migration Advisory Committee has called for evidence of skills shortages so they can decide which occupations should be added to the list and BMPA, on behalf of the meat industry, will be submitting evidence that will show just that.”
According to the BMPA, before the coronavirus crisis, UK meat processing companies were contending with a 10-15% shortfall in skilled workers, and while some of the demand for staff can be filled by British trainees, it doesn’t completely solve the problem. It added that often, suitable candidates don’t live close enough to where the jobs are and many factories are located in rural areas with less transport and accommodation infrastructure, which makes it difficult for people to travel to work.
It continued by saying that beyond the pool of UK workers, the shortfall can then only be made up by bringing in skilled workers from abroad. However, the current Shortage Occupation List doesn’t include the category of worker we need, so BMPA has been lobbying Government to add Butcher to that list, which includes slaughtermen as well as the boning, cutting and trimming specialists that prepare carcases for storage, processing and sale.
Head of policy for AIMS, Norman Bagley, added: “The ‘UK’s Points-Based Immigration System – Policy Statement’ was published in February 2020, pre-Covid-19.
“What we have seen since then is our members and their employees along with the whole of the food production and processing industry be defined as ‘critical workers’ as they have worked on to put the food onto the nations tables during crisis.
“Butchers and Meat plant workers will have a major role to play in the country’s post-coronavirus economic recovery and it is our view that they must be added to the shortage occupation list.
“As a result of our speaking with members we will be responding the Migration Advisory Committee’s call for evidence.”