NPA sets out solutions to post-Brexit labour crisis

Any post-Brexit scheme to ensure a future supply of migrant labour in agriculture must encourage full-time workers to come and live in the UK, the NPA has told MPs.

In its submission to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee’s inquiry into agricultural labour shortages, the NPA insists future policies must not be restricted to short-term seasonal work, as previous schemes have been.

The full submission can be viewed here

The association outlined the findings of its EU labour survey, which, carried out in the autumn, found that over half (55%) of the pig businesses surveyed employed non-UK workers, with European nationals accounting for 94% of all migrant labour.

The survey also found that 64% of those employing EU labour were finding it harder to find EU labour since the vote, with nearly half revealing that EU workers they employed were considering leaving the UK due to uncertainty over Brexit.

The NPA response also included comments left by members who took part in the survey, which reinforced why this is such an important issue to the pig sector.

The key message was that, as we prepare to leave the EU, the Government must look beyond seasonal agriculture workers schemes as the solution to any shortfall in EU workers.

“Whilst many businesses in the pig supply chain such as abattoirs, hauliers and processors do require seasonal labour, the vast majority of NPA members require permanent labour,” the document states. In the NPA’s survey, 90% of businesses who had migrant workers reported that they were employed on a permanent basis.”

Possible solutions

The submissiom outlined a raft of possible solutions to what is a looming crisis for the pig sector, also including:

  • Any future scheme set up to ensure the future supply of migrant labour must encourage full-time workers to come and live in the UK, rather than focus purely on short-term seasonal work, as previous schemes have.
  • Giving due priority in future immigration policy to so-called ‘unskilled workers’ i.e. those not educated to degree level, on which the pig industry relies.
  • Ensuring Europeans wanting to work in the UK are not prevented from doing so by Visa delays or complicated processes.
  • Reinstating tier 3 of the immigration points based system to allow ‘low-skilled’ workers to come in as a short term solution to specific temporary labour shortages.
  • Industry will commit to working with government to source more domestic labour as a potential solution if help can be provided to facilitate access to EU labour in the short term.
  • Government should focus efforts and funding on encouraging new entrants into agriculture via apprenticeships to ensure the succession of a future workforce.

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.