UK Government Consider SAWS Temporary Working Visa Changes To Solve Driver And Agricultural Staff Shortages
UK Government Consider Temporary Working Visa Changes To Solve Driver And Staff Shortages
The UK Environment Secretary has confirmed that the government is weighing up options on how to deal with growing labour shortages in the food sector.
George Eustice said the government was considering whether changes could be made to the Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Scheme (SAWS) – the temporary working visa quota-based scheme that allows farmers to recruit overseas for seasonal jobs.
Trade bodies have warned of panic-buying and food shortages this Christmas unless urgent action is taken to address the lack of staff and thousands of job vacancies in the UK.
Some blame the shortages on Covid and Brexit, but staff shortages have been building up for years.
Mr Eustice said “the reality that there is an acute labour shortage at the moment across the UK economy”.
The SAWS scheme allowed 30,000 temporary workers to admitted to the UK this year to fill job vacancies in agriculture – mostly working on fruit and vegetable farms. Migrants have long filled farming jobs, like picking and packing of produce, that British workers refuse to do.
Mr Eustice added that there are “some real concerns about how we’ll deal with that spike in demand in the two weeks up to Christmas”.
“We have SAWS and we’re looking at options as to how we can change the focus of that and we hope to be able to say something on this shortly,” he continued.
When asked if he would be looking at changes to visas to address workforce shortages, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Thursday: “If that was actually the solution, I’m sure we would move to it quickly and I don’t rule out anything.”
500,000 unfilled agricultural job vacancies
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has called for another emergency visa to allow firms to recruit from outside the UK.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he does “not believe people will be short of food” this autumn and winter, amid reports of some gaps on supermarket shelves.
Mr Eustice has previously said the government wanted to monitor whether workers who may be made redundant when the furlough schemes finish at the end of September could instead enter the labour market where there are shortages. Those include areas such as lorry driving or meat processing.
However, he said if that did not happen “then the beauty of a controlled immigration system is you can take steps to allow people to come in on temporary visas should you want”.
NFU head Minette Batters warned ministers that the food and farming sector is on a “knife edge” because of labour shortages across the entire supply chain.
The letter, signed on behalf of a number of food and drink trade bodies, called for the introduction of a Covid-19 recovery visa to open up new recruitment opportunities.
“Without it, more shelves will go empty and consumers will panic buy to try to get through the winter,” Ms Batters wrote.
Referring to an earlier NFU report, Ms Batters said that there were an estimated 500,000 unfilled vacancies in the industry.
Due to the shortages, some farmers have resorted to giving fruit and vegetables away rather than let it rot in their fields. Source: BBC
As well as the potential food shortage this Christmas, driver shortages are being blamed BP for growing fuel shortages in the UK.
The Home Office could include HGV Drivers on the shortage occupation list which would enable employers to apply for longer term working visas (work permits) to fill diver job vacancies.
This would fly in the face of the Brexit principle of controlling our borders and cutting immigration to boost jobs and pay for British workers.
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