UK Immigration Bill must not undervalue Britain's key meat plant workers

The proposed UK Immigration Bill could penalise poultry meat businesses already under strain from COVID-19.
calendar icon 26 June 2020
clock icon 4 minute read

In its existing form, the UK's Immigration Bill will likely leave poultry meat businesses at a disadvantage and make accessing quality food more difficult.

British Poultry Council Chief Executive, Richard Griffiths, said:

The Immigration [Bill] must not label ‘key workers’ in food production who have worked incredibly hard to keep this country running throughout the coronavirus crisis as ‘low skilled’.

"COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of self-belief and dignity that comes wrapped up in food. It has brought an unusual kind of recognition for food workers who were upgraded in the public rhetoric from ‘low-skilled’ to ‘essential’ to running the country.

"The Government must acknowledge that the food on the nation’s dinner tables under lockdown is being produced in large part by the people who their proposed policy undervalues. It must recognise food production as a vital asset to UK’s sovereign capability and treat food as a national security issue.

"With the UK beginning a new chapter outside the European Union, it is more important than ever to adopt policies that enable businesses to drive productivity, create good jobs and strengthen our food security in a thriving, independent UK post-Brexit.”

Expanding the seasonal worker pilot scheme to the Christmas turkey industry

The British poultry meat sector caters to the seasonal agri-food market. Around 9 million British turkeys are reared for Christmas every year to some of the highest standards in the world.

Richard Griffiths said: “We are calling on the Government to extend the seasonal worker pilot scheme currently aimed at the horticulture sector to the poultry meat industry. This will ensure that British turkeys remain affordable and available for all every Christmas.

Government must ensure that British poultry meat, and the quality it represents, stays affordable and available for all. Losing control of how we feed ourselves as a nation would penalise British food producers at a time when we should be taking matters of food security into our own hands.”

Poultry meat industry facts:

  • Poultry is half the meat the country eats. Our sector has grown significantly, beyond the UK labour availability in the areas we operate (where the unemployment rate remains very low). 60 percent of our workforce – 22,800 people – are EU nationals who are going above and beyond to keep this country fed.
  • The current estimation of the annual turnover of staff is 30 percent. Hence, every year, our industry has about 7,000 vacancies that need to be filled with non-UK workers.
  • The Government must recognise the needs of this vital British industry and enable poultry meat businesses to have access to the non-UK workers to continue feeding the nation their favourite meat.

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