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NPA highlights need for permanent EU labour, after SAWS announcement

6th Sep 2018 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has stressed the need for the Government to also recognise the importance of permanent EU labour after we leave the EU, following a major announcement about a new seasonal workers schem.

abattoir workersAfter extensive lobbying from the NFU, Defra and the Home Office have agreed to introduce a pilot scheme providing visas for up to 2,500 non-EU workers a year to work on fruit and vegetable farms for six months. The SAWS initiative will run between spring 2019 and December 2020.

Defra Secretary Michael Gove said: "We have listened to the powerful arguments from farmers about the need for seasonal labour to keep the horticulture industry productive and profitable.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: "This pilot will ensure farmers have access to the seasonal labour they need to remain productive and profitable during busy times of the year."

NFU President Minette Batters said the announcement was recognition from the Government that British horticulture ‘faces some unique challenges but is capable of producing more great, healthy British fruit and vegetables for people to eat’.

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said it showed the Government was listening to industry concerns.

“However, it is important that the conversation now moves onto the need for the wider farming, processing and allied sectors to continue to have access to permanent EU labour after we leave the EU,” she said.

“As our survey of members showed, the UK pig industry is hugely reliant on permanent EU workers to function. We fully support measures to attract more home-grown workers to the sector, but we will also continue to stress the need for policies that make EU citizen welcome to live and work in this country.

“Without them, the UK pig sector will not be in a position to grasp the opportunities Brexit might present in the global or domestic markets.”

NPA survey results

The NPA’s October 2017 survey of members across the pig industry showed:

  • Just over a half of respondents employed at least one non-UK worker, with 24% hiring more than a quarter of their labour from overseas.
  • Around 90% of businesses using non-UK labour employed them on a permanent basis, with 94% of non-UK workers coming from the EU.
  • 64% of those employing EU labour said it had become harder to find EU labour since the vote. None said it had got easier.
  • Nearly half of those employing EU labour said EU workers they employed were considering leaving the UK due to uncertainty over Brexit.