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Labour challenges mount for Scotland’s red meat industry

The challenge of keeping Scotland’s meat factories running against a backdrop of severe staff shortages is affecting businesses right across the country, with every indication that this is going to be a prolonged issue, says the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW).

“The notion that the degree of staffing issues affecting the whole food industry at present will magically disappear once we accomplish Christmas, is fanciful,” said SAMW President Alan McNaughton, speaking after a meeting of the Association’s executive council.

“Member after member reported labour problems during the meeting with one major company owner commenting that this problem could continue throughout 2022 and possibly beyond. The day to day challenge at present for many businesses is to recruit staff from an insufficient labour pool. All this means is that businesses are trapped in a staffing merry go round with workers moving from one company to another and back again.

“In addition to the simple numbers of this issue, the difficulty of recruiting and retaining the right calibre of staff with the skills we require are immense.  It is easy for Government Ministers to point to the high number of people looking for work but the bottom line is that those who are available on the local jobs market either do not have the particular skills we require, or are simply not interested in working or willing in a meat production environment.

“SAMW members accept that the lack of sufficient and skilled staff is not simply down to Brexit as this has been a long term issue for us, although never to the current extent.  We can obviously do more to solve our own staffing problems by showcasing the wide variety of positions available within meat processing, while working with the likes of Skills Development Scotland to provide a more cohesive and comprehensive pathway to employment within the red meat sector.  But putting this in place will undoubtedly take time to deliver the volume of new recruits we so desperately require. The UK Government must now therefore act quickly to fill today’s void by allowing us to simply and quickly recruit staff from outside the UK to work here for at least 12 months to keep our factories running.”