Recommendations for change
The CBI has given recommendations for how they think that the immigration system could be changed in order to ensure that we still have enough workers to fill supply chain and production and manufacturing jobs. One of their recommendations was to create a system which will focus on the contribution of migrant workers, rather than dealing with net migration numbers and stopping good workers from coming in.
They also want to put a registration system in place so that EU workers can easily enter the UK border without any stress. This is a system which is currently in place in some EU countries, which helps manufacturers to know that they can hire the workers without the cost becoming prohibitively expensive. Similarly, it allows the workers to know that they won’t be turned away or face any hassle when trying to enter the country.
The CBI makes a good case for the need to act on this situation as quickly as possible. Josh Hardie, the Deputy Director-General of the CBI, pointed out the high importance of a good solution. “The stakes couldn’t be higher. Get it wrong, and the UK risks having too few people to run the NHS, pick fruit or deliver products to stores around the country. This would hurt us all - from the money in our pockets to our access to public services,” he said.
Outlining the report
The CBI outlined the fact that many intricate jobs in the meat industry in particular are not considered to be skilled positions. This is despite the fact that there is no possible way to automate them. They said, “Meat filleting and removing bones from a delicate piece of fish are technical skills that would fail to meet the current definition of skilled. But they cannot yet be easily automated, as machines are not dextrous enough to adapt to different shapes and sizes of animals.”
The meat industry is very reliant on migrant labour, with an average of 63% of staff members in most plants being nationals of the EU. In some cases, this figure rose to as high as 80% of all people in food jobs with the company.
The official veterinarians who are used to audit UK abattoirs face an even steeper rate: more than 85% of them are EU nationals, according to statistics held by the Food Standards Agency. It goes without saying that losing those workers would represent a severe crisis for the meat industry.
Nick Allen is the CEO of the British Meat Processors Association. He said, “The BMPA supports the recommendations set out in the CBI’s latest report and will be adding its voice to calls for Government to heed the warnings coming directly from food businesses up and down the country. This detailed report presents a clear business case for how future immigration policy should be shaped, so that it fosters rather than hinders economic growth once we have left the EU.”
He also added that increasing the cost of labour through loss of workers would “put a strain on already tight margins which will mean inevitable price rises being passed on to the British consumer”.