Romanian farmworkers leaving ‘too cold’ Island

NEARLY three-quarters of the Romanians brought to the Island last month as agriculture workers have returned home after some found the Island ‘too cold’ and others were ‘reluctant to get stuck in’, according to one farmer.

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The agricultural industry was relying on this new influx of essential staff to plug a gap caused by the loss of Polish workers, who for the past ten years have filled the majority of more than 1,000 seasonal farming jobs.

Charlie Gallichan, the Channel Islands’ largest arable farmer, said that of the 61 Romanian workers who were allocated to work at his Trinity-based Woodside Farms business, just 15 remained and they were getting on well with the jobs they were employed to do.

He said: ‘The work did not suit most of them and some said they found it was too cold, but in fairness the weather so far this year has been miserable, and farmers are behind with the potato crop because of the rain.

‘Bringing in Romanians has not worked out as we had hoped it would and I am not totally sure what the reason is but some of them seemed to be reluctant to get stuck in.’

Mr Gallichan said that a total of 75 Romanians arrived in late January. Those who did not end up working for him went to other farms, and he believes most of them have also gone home.

The Jersey Farmers’ Union revealed the labour crisis in the industry last month. However, it is not just a problem for Jersey as farmers in the UK and Europe are also facing labour shortages.

Brexit, which has caused a ten per cent drop in the value of the pound, along with an improving economy in Poland and better paid jobs closer to home, have been cited as reasons why fewer Polish workers chose to work in Jersey this year.

Union president Peter Le Maistre said he was disappointed that the Romanians, who ranged in age from 20 to 50 years, had gone home.

He said: ‘It is a shame they found the work too difficult and that recruiting staff from Romania has not worked out as well as we had hoped, so we are going to have to look for staff elsewhere.’

Faced with an ever-shrinking labour market, the JFU wants the States to relax the Island’s immigration laws to allow farmers to source labour from outside the EU.

Earlier this month, Mr Le Maistre and Mr Gallichan submitted a report to Home Affairs detailing the problems they face and suggesting that workers could be brought here from Africa and the Ukraine.

Mr Gallichan said that they hoped to meet Home Affairs Minister Kristina Moore soon to discuss their options.

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