The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) has expressed disappointment that the Government’s advisory body on labour has rejected calls to add butchers and poultry dressers to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).
The Migration Advisory Committee have just published the outcome of its Review of the Shortage Occupation List, concluding that adding butchers to the list would simply ’embed poor conditions in the industry further.
Adding butchers to the SOL would have, among other things, reduced the salary threshold to just under £21,000 for recruiting butchers. Meat and farming industry bodies have called for butchers to be included on the list, highlighting the problems for the pig sector, in particular, caused by butcher shortages since we left the EU.
In its report, the MAC said stakeholders who called for butchers to be included on the list reported that employers have historically relied on EU workers ‘as working conditions are unattractive and deter domestic labour from entering the occupation, in addition to lacking the required skills’.
“Generally, processing locations have small local labour markets to select from,” it added. “Stakeholders evidenced attempts to alleviate shortage for this occupation by upskilling domestic labour through offering apprenticeships, improved salaries, improved flexibility where possible, and improved working conditions.
“Notably however, issues with working conditions and pay have been important in leading workers to leaving
the occupation for other job roles.”
It added that visa statistics show Butchers are large users of the skilled worker route, meaning employers ‘can continue to use the immigration system to fill vacancies where necessary’.
Explaining the decision not to recommend adding butchers to the SOL, it cited the ‘historically poor working
conditions, with low pay and unsociable hours’.
“This has made domestic recruitment difficult in a buoyant labour market where more attractive employment opportunities are available. It is unclear why the SOL should allow the sector to avoid the necessary adjustments to pay and conditions that is the only sustainable solution for the occupation,” the report adderd.
“We are concerned that including the occupation on the SOL would simply embed these poor conditions further. We also note that many employers are in fact using the SW route which suggests that some at least can pay the general threshold.”
Aldo rejecting fishmongers and poultry dressers, the MAC said: Whilst some indicators of shortage exist, visa data suggests that employers can pay at the general threshold attached to the SW route. We are also unconvinced that employers in the occupation have done enough to overcome challenges in attracting workers from the domestic population.”
“We are concerned that within their recommendation they see the role of butchers as jobs with ‘poor working conditions, low pay and unsociable hours’ and that they expressed concerns that ‘including the occupation on the SOL would simply embed these poor conditions further’.
“We refute these assertions and point to the often rural location of these businesses, many of which are based in areas of very low unemployment. Furthermore that the lack of a T-Level in food manufacturing, the country’s largest manufacturing sector possibly acts as a barrier to some when thinking about the meat industry as a career.”
AIMS recent wrote to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak asking that Asylum seekers be permitted to work in our industry and are pleased to see that MAC have recommended that, ‘if granted the right to work, asylum seekers should be able to work in any job’.