U.K. minister dismisses pleas for seasonal farmworker scheme
The British government has ruled out a seasonal agricultural workers scheme which helps people from overseas temporarily work on U.K. farms and vitally plug gaps in the fruit picking workforce.
Ever since the result of the European Union referendum last June, the U.K.’s agricultural industry has been calling for the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) to be reinstated.
It says many sectors and business face severe setbacks if foreign seasonal workers are not allowed to come into the country.
Recently the National Farmers Union (NFU) called for visa-controlled permits for agricultural workers as a way to negate labor shortages at U.K. harvesting periods for fruit and vegetables.
Earlier this year, NFU deputy president Minette Batters raised post-Brexit labor concerns to the Economic Affairs Committee of Parliament's House of Lords. She said British farmers and growers need access to a competent workforce, many of which come from countries like Bulgaria, Romania and Poland.
And now, as many sectors head towards harvest season, Minister for State Immigration Robert Goodwill has rejected any type of seasonal workers scheme.
Earlier this week he told the House of Commons' Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that reports of a series labor shortage were not supported by statistics.
“At the moment, we do not believe there is a need for a scheme,” he said.
This is rejected by the NFU which claims the evidence for such a scheme is clear and estimates around 95,000 people will be needed to work within the horticultural sector by 2020. Currently there are 85,000 seasonal workers.
Director of Hops Labour Solutions, John Hardman, has written an open letter to all Hops growers and worker members reassuring them that he’s lobbying at the highest level to protect the supply labor and employment of temporary workers in the UK.
“Hops will continue to recruit as it does currently and the Government has assured us that nothing will change until March 2019 at the very earliest.”