[DEBATE] : British workers compete for seasonal jobs as recession bites
Riaz K Tayob
riaz.tayob at gmail.com
Tue Apr 14 09:35:56 BST 2009
[Thatcher - there is no alternative... exported as well...]
British workers compete for seasonal jobs as recession bites
• Britons applying for work previously left to migrants
• Many becoming fruit pickers and farm hands
* Stephen Bates
* The Guardian, Tuesday 14 April 2009
* Article history
British workers, who in recent years spurned jobs such as flower
picking, are returning to the fields. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Across rural England, from the daffodil fields of Cornwall to the market
gardens of Kent and the potato patches of Lincolnshire, farmers are
predicting a new trend as the recession bites in their communities: the
return of the British worker.
The harvesting season is still months away, so seasonal recruitment is
only just starting, but there are initial signs that British workers are
starting to apply for the sort of low-paid, unskilled labouring jobs
that they would have spurned for many years and left to eastern European
When Thanet Earth, the vegetable supplier, advertised for workers in
east Kent a few weeks ago, it received 217 applicants for 30 jobs. All
but three of the hopefuls were British nationals.
One of the applicants, Rob Adams, who previously worked as a hod
carrier, said: "I am red and green colour blind which will cause
problems picking tomatoes ... but I did study horticulture and I've been
waiting for this job since July last year."
Nicola Outlaw, a director of the Kent Staff recruitment agency which
supplies Thanet Earth with workers, paying the minimum wage of £5.73 an
hour, said: "A higher proportion of people applying for low-paid
agricultural jobs are now British. Where last year they tended to shy
away from temporary jobs, we are now getting good numbers applying.
There has been no noticeable difference in the numbers of eastern
Europeans. They are still coming here too."
In recent years stories have emerged about Polish and Czech workers
being recruited for manual jobs such as picking potatoes or packing
salads over their British counterparts because they are more reliable
and harder working.
Some farmers had expressed concerns last autumn that many eastern
Europeans would return home as jobs here dried up and opportunities
improved in their homelands. But there was no mass exodus. In fact, many
of those who went home are back because job opportunities in eastern
Europe are even more limited than in Britain.
Sharon Cross, whose company employs 1,300 seasonal workers around Ely,
Cambridgeshire, said: "This time last year we were struggling to fill
jobs, now we are having people calling up all the time. A lot of those
who went home before Christmas have come back asking for work. Seasonal
jobs have not been very attractive to British workers in the past, but
that is changing."
On the fringes of Nottingham, the story is the same. John Hammond, whose
company grows vegetables, said there was no shortage of British
applicants for jobs.
"We employ on a capability basis, not nationality, but there are not
many alternative jobs around at the moment," he said. "We are employing
youngsters in their 20s who are anxious to learn. If you can work hard
you can earn £20 an hour."
But Marshall Evans, who runs the East Midlands Staffline agency, said
many British applicants who had come forward for work were shocked by
what was on offer and the minimum wage. "We are getting middle-aged
people and they are coming to the work from fully-skilled jobs and much
higher salaries," said Evans.
Some of those who do get work could find themselves being exploited by
unscrupulous employers. Paul Whitehouse, of the Gangmasters' Licensing
Authority which regulates companies who supply workers, said: "We are
getting to places where people are paid less than the minimum wage and
hearing of people who are not being paid on time because employers
themselves are not being paid."
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