The term ‘unskilled labour’ does a great disservice to our migrant workforce

The last few weeks have, unsurprisingly, all been about Brexit.

Due to the hard work that Lizzie (Wilson) has put in, writing letters to ministers in all the relevant departments and the fact that they are all clearly in listening mode, we are meeting with more civil servants than ever and trying to get important points across about the pig sector.

I was lucky to be invited to give evidence at the recent EFRA select committee on labour, in the House of Commons. The focus, so far, has all been on seasonal labour from agriculture, which although important to some, is not what the pig industry needs as we largely rely on permanent staff.

The other point I had to get across was that although farm work is largely termed as ‘unskilled’ because people don’t usually need a degree to be able to do it, it doesn’t mean that people that are involved in agriculture have no skill. To me, this always seems to be an unfair description.

Anyway, the session appeared to go well, I got all of the points across that I needed to and dropped the Minister for Immigration, Robert Goodwill, in it for not sending back a suitable response to the letter we sent jointly with the poultry industry.
Let’s hope Neil Parish, who chairs the EFRA committee, drags him in too…

Second on the list was a very useful meeting with the Department for International Trade. We took the major processor representatives along with us, as they have first-hand experience of exporting and know where the key sticking points are, but found the team to be very useful and representatives from both Defra and DExEU (the new Department for Exiting the EU) were present, which shows cross-government working.

What impressed me most was that, unlike many, they actually had a plan for what they were going to do once Article 50 is triggered and the team (including specialists working with embassy individuals) is growing exponentially in order to facilitate it.

Comfortingly, their view is that trade with the EU at least won’t be too disrupted as we know plenty of countries will want to continue to export to the UK, too.
They also confirmed that welfare standards would be included as part of any trade negotiations. We have a meeting with DExEU coming up and no end of roundtables, so if we don’t manage to get the key messages across I will be very surprised.

On a slightly different note, Georgina (Crayford) begins her Nuffield journey this month. She’s off to Brazil for the scholar’s conference and I am sure will be keen to share her experiences with you all.
Not surprisingly, her Nuffield is all about antibiotics, so it’s very relevant. Figures on the eMB-Pigs database are starting to look much better by the way – keep it coming!

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About The Author

Dr Zoë Davies is chief executive of the NPA. For more information visit: