Scots processors ID Brexit labour fears

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Two-thirds of the workers at Scotland’s seafood process businesses are foreign workers from the European Economic Area — 86 percent of them from Latvia, Lithuania and Poland — a report for government released this week has found.

The conclusion, the Scottish Government declared, was that seafood processing in Scotland is dependent on Europeans from the Continent. The study looked at 18 process plants representing 37 percent of the total processor workforce.

The most recent figures (from 2015) show the seafood processing sector employs over 7,500 people in 2015, “contributed GBP 1.57 billion in turnover and generated GBP 304 million to the Scottish economy”, a communique said.

Rural contribution
“This study backs up recent analysis which found EU nationals contribute more than GBP 4.4 billion a year to our economy and shows exactly why we value the contribution they make in our communities,” said Scottish Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing, in a statement that added, “We will continue to show EU nationals that they are welcome here and call for free movement of people which is clearly in the best interests of Scotland and the UK as a whole.”

All processors reported that they were dependent on “lower-skilled non-UK, EEA workers.” The study, which was compiled by the seafood sector, concluded that Britain’s exit from the European Union, or Brexit, could make growth for the segment difficult.

Would be missed
Although asked to respond to their “lower-skilled” workforce, the study’s surveyed businesses identified a range of impacts on the seafood processing labour market: from not needing outside workers to medium impacts “due to a drop in the quality of the workforce” and significant changes in the way they operate and, “in some cases”, processor saw in Brexit “a direct threat” to their survival.

The study erroneously and repeatedly referred to EEA workers, inadvertently implying that EU workers might not be needed, and that therefor Brexit would have no effect on seafood processing in Britain. This week’s government broadcasts, however, clearly take aim at Brexit as a threat to aquaculture growth in Scotland.

Some 41 percent of the seafood processor workforce was said to be composed of U.K. citizens.

Scotland holds 60 percent of total U.K. seafood processing capacity.