Producers of processed meat in the UK are hiring inmates as day laborers to cover the labor crisis that has occurred in the wake of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic. The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), which represents butchers, slaughterhouses and processors, has contacted the Ministry of Justice to request an extension of the number of inmates with special exit permits to carry out a paid work, according to the newspaper The Guardian in its edition this Monday.
The English prison service facilitates the hiring of prisoners who are in a regime equivalent to the second Spanish degree. They generally have the opportunity to work one shift per week, with the corresponding pay. But the mechanism is overwhelmed and the quota of inmates with exit permits to occupy a job does not cover the urgent needs of the sector.
The industry suffers from the explosive combination of losses from the labor market as a result of covid-19 – either due to contagion or close contact with the virus – and the blocking of the hiring of community nationals not resident in the United Kingdom since the final exit from the European Union, in January 2021. The lack of personnel affects road transport, supermarkets and hospitality, among other sectors related to the food industry, and has led to a chain of shortages that hinders the take-off of the economy despite the release of restrictions to contain the pandemic.
The British Meat Industry Association (BMPA) anticipates problems in the production and supply of typical Christmas menus, such as roast suckling pig and ham, which require more processing than the more popular turkey. According to the association, its members face an extraordinary lack of staff, which already exceeds 15%. They also complain that supermarkets and department stores are offering bonuses of between 2,500 and 5,500 euros to truck drivers to distribute their own products with them. “That means manufacturers are having a hard time distributing their items. And those same merchants impose fines on their suppliers who do not deliver orders on time ”, denounces the BMPA in the blog of its platform.
Both entities have also turned to associations that help inmates find work as soon as they leave prison. “Most of the food industry is facing a hiring crisis,” he tells The Guardian a spokesperson for the AIMS. Interior insists that British workforce takes precedence over any initiative aimed at extending temporary working permits for EU day laborers.
One of the major truck drivers’ unions, GMB, has started the process to organize a union strike in the fall, which would jeopardize the flow of supplies in the pre-Christmas season. The food industry alone is missing some 90,000 HGV drivers in the UK, according to union estimates.