One of the UK’s biggest pork producers has spent £4 million ($4.8 million) hiring butchers from the Philippines, after a staffing crisis threatened to hamper production.
Cranswick Plc, which supplies supermarkets with pork and poultry, is paying for 400 butchers to travel from the Asian islands to work in Britain after staff from continental Europe flocked home following Brexit.
“It’s absolutely necessary if we want food on the plates,” said Cranswick’s Chief Executive Officer, Adam Couch. “Obviously it’s very expensive to bring them over, but it’s far better to bring them over than to curtail production as we did this time last year.”
Mr. Couch said that paying for each butcher from the Philippines cost between £10,000 and £12,000 — equivalent to more than £4 million. Each butcher needs a visa, a flight to the UK, an English test, and accommodation. Cranswick has an apprenticeship program to train up new butchers, but Mr. Couch said that there was just “not enough people”.
Jayne Arnold from the Food and Drink Federation said the whole industry is suffering from a lack of staff “despite employers making significant efforts to attract workers from offering higher wages to introducing more flexible shifts.”
Earlier this week, Tony Danker, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said the UK needed more foreign workers to help it escape a likely recession.
Labor shortages have prompted businesses to seek new ways to find workers. Halfords Group Plc, the motoring and bike retailer, has launched a recruitment drive to hire 1,000 new technicians — prioritizing the over 50s.
Until Britain voted to leave the European Union, 65% of Cranswick’s workers in the UK came from central Europe. That number has since plunged. Last year, the staff shortage was so severe that Cranswick had 25% fewer staff than required at its processing plants in areas such as Hull, northern England, and Norfolk, eastern England. — Bloomberg