UK may ease visa restrictions for foreign butchers amid labour shortage - SALIENT TIMES ONLINE

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Friday, 1 October 2021

UK may ease visa restrictions for foreign butchers amid labour shortage

By Our Correspondent



The United Kingdom may ease visa restrictions for hundreds of foreign butchers as the country is facing a significant shortage of butchers.


Last weekend, the government announced an offer of short-term work visas for 5,000 foreign lorry drivers and 5,500 foreign poultry workers.


With the three-month temporary visas, drivers will be able to go to work in the UK in the run-up to Christmas to provide “short-term relief for the haulage industry”.


According to The Times, discussions are taking place in the government to ease visa restrictions for another 1,000 foreign butchers into the country amid industry warnings that a shortage could hit Christmas food supplies.


The newspaper said Priti Patel, the interior minister, is resisting the policy over alleged fears that it is a longer-term tactic to reintroduce freedom of movement for workers from which the UK broke away upon leaving the European Union (EU).


The industry is short of around 15,000 staff, according to the British Meat Processors Association.


A spokesperson for the group told The Times: “We’ve been managing to keep food supplies rolling, day to day, but we really should have been producing Christmas food from about June or July onwards this year and so far we haven’t been so there’ll be shortages of party foods and things like pigs in blankets.


“Anything that is labour intensive work could see shortages.”


Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union, called on the government to act to avoid an “animal welfare crisis” in the pig farming industry.


She said she could dispose of 150,000 pigs in a week unless the government issued visas to foreign butchers.


Ministers are also reportedly in talks over relaxing the requirement for butchers to be able to speak a good level of English, with butchers being considered skilled workers under the UK’s points-based immigration system.


The newspaper reported a government source as saying: “We’re not going to return to freedom of movement by incrementally adding every sector to the points-based immigration.”