Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Pilot scheme for overseas workers to launch this year

January 2, 2019 by  
Filed under Crops

Two companies are to pilot a new seasonal workers scheme that will give UK fruit and vegetable growers access to overseas labour during busy times of the year.

Up to 2,500 migrant workers from outside the EU will be able to come to the UK each year for up to six months at a time. The pilot scheme will start in the spring of 2019 and will run until the end of December 2020.

The two companies which will operate the scheme are Concordia (UK) and Pro-Force, pending their successful application for a sponsor licence. They were selected following a selection process overseen by Defra and the Home Office.

Unharvested crops

The NFU has calculated that 70-80,000 seasonal workers are needed annually to harvest fresh produce in the UK. But some 13% of positions went unfilled last year – leaving some crops unharvested in the field. If the pilot scheme is successful, it could be extended.

The pilot scheme is known as an operator-led immigration route, which means the two operators selected will manage the selection and placement of workers on UK farms. They will be required to ensure that all UK regions benefit from this pilot.

Pro-Force chief executive Matt Jarrett said his company’s selection was testament to its efforts within the recruitment industry to work on improvements that protect workers from the dangers of modern day slavery and other labour abuses.

“Rising incomes within the EU, unfavourable exchange rates and recent uncertainty over the future have combined to make the UK a far less attractive destination for unskilled workers,” said Mr Jarrett. “This has had a direct impact on our fresh produce growers.”

Details of how farmers can participate are expected to be published in the next few weeks.

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