Home Office deflects blame for UK labour crisis

The minister was questioned by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee yesterday (14 Dec) over the Government’s response to the labour crisis, which has led to thousands of animals being culled and food left to rot in fields.

During questioning, Foster was accused of deflecting the blame for the difficulties in securing labour for struggling producers away from his department and those it worked with onto the industry.

He pointed at the systems that had been put in place since December 2020 that uncapped the number of skilled workers – including poultry processors and butchers – that could enter the country on working visas.

Robust system

Despite heavy criticism from the committee, Foster was adamant in his belief that the systems in place to allow foreign workers into the country were robust in their scope and application.

His main point of contention was the lack of applications that had been made by businesses to become sponsors for skilled labourers from overseas.

When asked if putting butchers on the shortage occupation list would help, Foster disagreed. He argued that the only reason the shortage occupation list would boost recruitment would be if manufacturers were willing to pay lower wages – something he noted manufacturers had been quoted to not do.

If a manufacturer was willing to pay the £25k+ wages for a skilled worker, they could already do so through the skilled worker visa, a system that has no caps.

Foster went on to highlight the lack of applications for skilled work visas while continuing to criticise the industry for its lack applications for the temporary visas that it had demanded – of the 800 pork butchery visas made available, less than 100 applications had been made.

Source: foodmanufacture.co.uk