In the UK, the Home Office has been accused of sabotaging the success of a foreign workers scheme, designed to supply essential labour to pick this year’s fruit and vegetable crops. The governmental Seasonal Workers Pilot (SWP) scheme, which allows workers to spend six months in the UK, was extended from 10,000 to 30,000 people this year after extensive lobbying by the farmers’ unions.
Now, however, fruit growers are frustrated that they cannot apply for staff to pick rapidly ripening crops because they have not been told which labour recruitment companies have been selected to source the extra workers.
One grower said the selection process for two new companies had begun in January and the names of the successful operators were already an open secret in the industry. “So why keep the identities of the new companies a secret and prevent growers from applying for labour? To me, it’s being deliberately obstructive; they’re trying to sabotage the scheme.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “It is absolutely right that due diligence is applied to this process and we have always been clear that it will take up to six months to select additional scheme operators. An announcement will be made in due course but we expect them to be in place before peak production periods, during which we see the highest demand for seasonal workers.”