Supplementary written evidence submitted by Fresh Produce Consortium (LS0074)
19 January 2022
FPC Salary and Benefits Survey 2022
FPC carries out a Salary and Benefits Survey of its members every year. The latest survey is just closing and the findings are being collated. We can share with the Committee that:
Additional feedback from individual members:
One mid-sized business growing and importing fruit to sell to UK retailers, export globally and process for food manufacturers in the UK and EU used to directly employ 100 workers and up to 150 temporary agency personnel, historically around 90% foreign nationals.
In the run up to Christmas this company was regularly receiving around 30-40% of its temporary labour requirement, despite taking on two more labour. Given the ongoing issues the company increased pay rates above the 2022 Living Wage rates targeted UK nationals to try and fill requirements. However, to date these measures have been unsuccessful and the vacancy level remains high.
The same company owns a farm and struggled to fulfil its labour requirement throughout the summer season. There was no interest from the local population and the pool of overseas labour was greatly reduced. The company gave free accommodation to workers but could only get about 50% of staff we needed. Consequently tonnes of cherries went rotten on the trees as we could not pick them fast enough because of a lack of staff.
Increased Competition & Professional Disparity:
Labour shortages are causing greater competition & professional disparity in the marketplace, which is great for the relatively unskilled employees, but extremely challenging and frustrating for the employer and skilled professionals. We’ve not seen the end of it yet either, because the hourly rates will increase further from 1 April 2022 if not before in the agricultural and horticulture sectors.
As an example:
Fully qualified commercial electricians who have trained for 3+yrs, passed numerous exams at a significant cost are now earning equal to or less money than a FLT driver who has passed a 3-5 day test. This is of course caused by supply and demand. If you compared electricians to lorry drivers then they’re on 40% less.
Shortage of Labour:
Coach loads of workers are being bused up from London to work in Cambridgeshire because
they can earn more money outside London. This takes into account that companies are having to pay for transport and up to four hours travelling time.
It feels like the minimum hourly rate is being reviewed monthly, not annually. Bonuses are being given as a well done for attending. Working a Saturday and/or Sunday is starting to demand a premium, mainly because wages in our sector have increased so people don’t need to work weekends anymore to make up their pay.
Location is now a bigger factor than it ever has been, because employees have more choice, so don’t need to travel within our locality.
Amazon is paying fantastic money to get staff. I heard yesterday that they paid £9.7Mil in bonuses last week ! They usually recruit for Christmas and then dump the excess back on to the market directly after Christmas. This does not seem to have happened this year or last year.
Bringing staff into the UK is almost impossible now for packhouses for example, so the group of employees is the same for everyone now, which makes competition greater. For the produce companies who make small margins this is getting closer and closer to the point where companies
will go under. Supermarket prices are going to increase this coming summer, so the likelihood of inflation increasing again is very likely, which will affect the economy.
Companies are having to look outside the box to make their workplace more attractive with things like: