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Government must rethink labour shortage list - NPA

31st May 2019 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has criticised the decision by the Government's advisors on post-Brexit labour policy to sideline farming once again. 

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published its review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) this week and agriculture is still missing from a list of what are considered to be jobs in short supply that will need to be filled by non-UK workers after we leave the EU.

During the consultation, the NPA, backed up by member surveys, highlighted the reliance of the UK pig sector on overseas workers, on farms and in abattoirs. The MAC's decision, if adopted by Ministers, means new restrictions are likely to be placed on non-UK labour on farms after we leave the EU. 

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said, while the NPA is very supportive of moves to make the pig sector a more attractive proposition to UK workers, there will not be a sufficient supply of domestic labour to make up the shortfall. 

She said the association was ‘extremely disappointed’ with the decision. "If the pig industry faces new barriers to non-UK workers abd labour shortages result, it will compromise the pig sector’s production capacity and hamper our ability to respond to growing global demand for pork," she said.

"The Government must rethink this list for the sake of our domestic food supply."

The NFU provided a list of critical jobs that many non-UK workers perform on farms at all skill levels roles across agriculture during the consultation. NFU president Minette Batters said she was ‘staggered’ that farming has been ignored in this way. She said the MAC had failed to recognise the needs of our industry, and the implications for shoppers wanting to continue to buy affordable high quality British food. 

“In a post-Brexit world, access to overseas workers may be restricted. If we can’t get some of these permanent roles on the shortage occupation list, we will be limited purely to UK-based workers to fill those jobs when we know, with the country at near full employment, the numbers are just not there," she said.

"We urge Government to look carefully at these recommendations and add the roles we desperately need so the critical jobs that many non-UK workers perform on our farms at all skill levels are accounted for.”

There was, however, good news for vets. British Vet Association president Simon Doherty described the decision to reinstated vets to the list, after the profession was originally excluded, as a ‘huge win for animal welfare and a resounding vote of confidence in the veterinary community’.