Farm worker shortage can be solved with better pay

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Difficulties finding seasonal agricultural workers could solved by improving notoriously bad pay and conditions in the sector, Unite has said in response to complaints by UK fruit farmers. 

Managing director of Kent-based Winterwood Farms Ltd, which produces fruit crops in the UK, Europe and South Africa, Stephen Taylor told the PA his UK operations were ‘at the brink’ because of a lack of workers. 

Chairman of British Summer Fruits, Nick Marston, said there are less and less EU seasonal workers and that farmers are facing the “impossibility of recruiting a significant proportion of our large workforce from UK residents”.

But Unite national officer Bev Clarkson said that if pay, terms and conditions were right in agriculture then there would be UK workers available as well as migrant workers.

She said: “That’s the big problem – there’s massive issues because workers are extremely low paid, they don’t have any job security and are often treated badly.

“To prevent chronic labour shortages requires not only individual employers to up their game, but for the government to implement sector-wide reforms and assistance, including reinstating the Agricultural Wages Board. 

“Not being part of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy should also mean government making the allocation of farming subsidies conditional on the creation of decent, secure jobs.”

by Ryan Fletcher

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