Meat industry warns of labour exodus due to Brexit

The British meat industry faces a long-running problem of skilled staff shortages which has been exacerbated by recent Government decisions.

Nick Allen, CEO of The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) explained: “Currently, not enough British people come forward to work in meat plants, which means the shortfall in staff has to be filled by overseas workers. They have traditionally come from the EU and make up between 50-80% of the workforce in meat plants.

From now onwards, as a result of Brexit, we’re facing an exodus of our EU staff who will leave behind a big gap in the productive capacity of Britain’s meat processing industry. And [the]Government has just made it doubly difficult to plug that gap.”

In November, an announcement was made that Butchers will no longer be included on the Shortage Occupation List, despite strenuous recommendations from both the Migration Advisory Committee and the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee that they should.

The British Meat Industry was hit again in December, when the Department for Education did not include any food and drink courses, but specifically butchery courses, within the list of Level 3 adult courses eligible for the £95 million Lifetime Skills Guarantee, contributing towards a barrier to re-training newly unemployed British workers as the home-grown butchers and meat processors of the future.

Mr Allen went further to explain: “By removing funding for this kind of lifetime skills retraining, the Government is making it difficult for the people who need to find new jobs and for the companies that desperately need more staff. With both the demand for and supply of British workers clearly there, adding food and drink qualifications to the Lifetime Skills Guarantee would bring the two together and be a win/win for Government. And this is what we are calling for”.

BMPA will be submitting evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee, on behalf of the meat industry, to show evidence of skill shortages (Click here to find out more). 

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