Page 21 - Farm labour in the UK
P. 21

business owners in their own right rather than employees.
• Competition from other industries. Labour shortages are not limited to farming. Construction, civil engineering, telecommunications etc. are also competing for an ever-decreasing British labour force.
“What that means is that simply there aren’t enough people to go around. The jobs are there but the people aren’t” (Farming rep 1)
• Conditions. Working and living conditions for seasonal workers are generally associated with being cramped and basic, with large numbers of workers housed in bunk houses or caravans. Although some farms are reported to have improved conditions for their workers, many have not. The drawbacks of close living quarters became even more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic as cramped housing on some holdings threatened to, or in some cases did, perpetuate disease outbreaks among workers.
A constraint for some employers is a lack of planning permission to build dwellings for their workers. With regards to being able to provide housing, one farm business stated that ‘accommodation is not a problem’ while another said that ‘housing is a nightmare’.
The work also requires long hours and is physically demanding, requiring a certain level of fitness and commitment from its workers.
• Pay. Seasonal work is associated with low pay or unfair treatment related to picking speeds/limited hours offered.
• Humiliating, disrespectful treatment, including heavy surveillance. Some domestic workers in 2020
reported feeling shamed if their work was not quick enough, while some migrant workers report being ‘yelled at’ or treated like second-class citizens (Adkins 2020).
• Lack of communal space and social activities on some farms can be off-putting to workers used to better conditions.
• ‘Poaching’ from other farms.
“Investing in people is not something that has happened and usually the only way to get decent staff is to nick them off another farm” (Horticulture expert)
• Location and lack of transport. The rural or remote location of farms automatically make crop
picking jobs out-of-bounds for many domestic workers. The commute is too far and few are willing to move for the duration of the picking season. The areas in the UK with the highest unemployment rates tend to be far from farm locations.
“I think it’s worth flagging that higher unemployment rates generally don’t always map out into higher unemployment rates in the geographic locality that’ll run to farming areas, which tend to be more rural” (Labour expert 2)
• Tight margins caused by the supply chain prevent employers from being able to increase pay to a level
that would be considered acceptable to many domestic workers.
• The last few years have seen the recruitment process becoming increasingly more challenging.
“It’s not as easy as it was, believe me, we have to advertise. If you went back two or three years, you didn’t have to advertise at all” (Farmer 1)
• The cost of R&D into automation and new technologies is expensive.
• There exists a lack of available operational labour in the domestic labour force.
Farm labour in the UK | Accessing the workforce the industry needs

   19   20   21   22   23