“Remedy for labour shortages isn’t simple,” says BMPA

“Remedy for labour shortages isn’t simple,” says BMPA

Companies within the British meat industry are eager to employ local workers, but one-off costs of up to £15,000 to bring in staff from far afield are leaving them questioning policy makers, says the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA).

BMPA chief executive Nick Allen.

Nick Allen, CEO of the BMPA said: “Just two of our members have committed a total of £10 million in the last 18 months to bring in the staff they need from abroad because suitable UK candidates are simply not available. It’s an extra cost on top of wages that we never had before we left the EU. It’s also in addition to a near 20% rise in wages. And to stay viable, these costs are having to be passed on to consumers, stoking food price inflation, and making British companies less competitive.”

The BMPA said the remedy for Britain’s labour shortage is not as simplistic as some would hope – just telling companies to employ more British people ignores the two key considerations: Are they physically willing and able to do those jobs? And are they willing and able to move or travel to where those jobs are?

Nick Allen explained: “It’s an inconvenient truth, but many British workers, whether they’re ‘economically inactive’ or not, are either reluctant or physically unable to take up jobs in certain industries. Meat processing is one of those industries that struggles to fill vacancies from the local population.

“This is partly a perception issue (which we’re working on), but the bigger and more intractable issue is the lack of geographical mobility and the physically challenging working environment, neither of which we can change, either for productivity reasons or for food safety reasons.”

According to the BMPA, two reports published recently illustrate the struggle the meat and other industries have been having to get Government to support an optimal skills and labour supply.

“Many British workers are either reluctant or physically unable to take up jobs in certain industries. “

Nick Allen

On the one hand, the Independent Review into Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain highlights the need to allow more skilled and semi-skilled migrant workers into the country to take up vacancies they can’t fill from the domestic labour supply. The BMPA supports the report’s recommendation that Government works more closely with industry.

On the other hand, the BMPA said that the twenty-five-strong ‘New Conservatives’ group of MPs has recently released a report calling for it to be made much harder to source the people and skills needed. Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory, has declared some of the proposals in the report to be ‘a bit outlandish’.

The BMPA said it sees the answer lies somewhere between short term reliance on overseas workers and a longer-term shift in how this country perceives and values certain careers, but it can only do this with the engagement and support of Government, schools and education providers.

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