SAMW calls on government to address labour shortage
Alan McNaughton, newly elected president of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW), wants urgent action on existing and potential labour problems affecting Scotland’s meat processors.
McNaughton told the association’s AGM that some member companies were already reporting a 10% to 12% shortfall in filling vacancies. He suggested that recent hot weather had sent the demand for barbecue products “through the roof” and the labour shortages were adding stress to an industry already hit by Covid-19 related regulations.
“Our assessment is that current labour issues are linked to the upheaval caused by the changes affecting EU workers since 1st January this year,” he continued. “It is an area which desperately needs to be sorted by the Home Secretary. One member told a recent SAMW executive committee meeting that the labour shortage is now his number one concern, which is quite a statement, given the Covid-19 pressures under which all businesses have been operating since March 2020.”
“It cannot be free trade at any price.”
The president went on to address the government’s approach to Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations, saying that although the SAMW supported free trade, it could not be “free trade at any price.”
“In the complete absence of any detail from the UK international trade minister, the reports circulating in the media surrounding current FTA talks with Australia have not been comforting for members, not least because so little is known about what is being said behind closed doors,” he said.
“What concerns SAMW members most, however, is what might happen once the Australia deal is concluded. If it is then used as a template to close similar free access deals with the USA, Brazil and others, the exact terms of this first significant post-Brexit FTA are going to be crucial to our industry’s future. We cannot, for example, accept products being imported into the UK which do not abide by our own high standards of health, welfare and safety. A future FTA structure in which everything is welcome if the price is right, will damage our domestic industry beyond repair.
“We are already working closely with other meat trade and farming bodies on both these issues and will be pursuing them individually and jointly with the Scottish Government’s new cabinet secretary for rural affairs, Mairi Gougeon, and with George Eustice, UK secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs.”