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Britain will miss unskilled migrants after Brexit

  • Author:naky
  • Source:www.diecastingpartsupplier.com
  • Release on:2016-07-12
Have you ever noticed how supermarkets run out of fruit salads on sunny days when everyone decides they fancy a picnic? No? That’s because they rarely do.

I never really thought about the mechanics behind this until I interviewed a man who supplied temp workers to a British company that made bagged salads and fruit pots. Demand would fluctuate according to the weather, but British weather is notoriously changeable and fresh products have a short shelf life. So the company would only finalise its order for the number of temps it required for the night shift at 4pm on the day. Workers on standby would receive text messages: “you’re on for tonight” or “you’re off”.

Most of this hyper-flexible workforce had come to the UK from Europe. “We wouldn’t eat without eastern Europeans,” the man from the temp agency said confidently.

There is talk of the country introducing an Australian-style points system that would admit high-skilled migrants such as engineers but stop low-paid migrants like salad-baggers.

EU nationals account for 31 per cent of the workers in food manufacturing, 21 per cent of those in hotels and other accommodation, 16 per cent of those in agriculture and 15 per cent of those in warehouses. While current migrants probably won’t be sent home, people who want to limit low-paid migration say this would result in more jobs for British people in future.

There is also something about the nature of these jobs that makes them tough for UK nationals to do. These sectors usually require extreme flexibility from staff: the salad-baggers who wait for a text message to say they have work that night; the cleaners who cobble together piecemeal shifts at dusk and dawn; the fruit pickers living in caravans on farms.

Farmers say one reason they cannot attract UK workers is the unwieldy benefit system: it does not make sense to do short-term, low-paid temp work that will wreak havoc with your benefit payments for weeks afterwards.

Some migrant workers have been pushing for these things already. The UK as a nation could have used regulation to help them. But until now, we seem to have accepted these jobs as they are in exchange for the cheap, convenient goods and services that depend on them.

Low-paid migrants are visible, but many of the benefits they bring are invisible: the British strawberries in the shops, that salad on the shelf just when you want it, the office that is dirty when you leave at night but clean on your return. Perhaps we’ll only really know what we’ve got when it’s gone