Farmers expanding their search for non-EU workers

JERSEY farmers are expanding their search for non-EU labour with European workers becoming more likely to need permits to work in the Island post-Brexit, a union head has said.

Outdoor tomatoes being grown by Peter Le Maistre in Grouville. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (25665091)
Outdoor tomatoes being grown by Peter Le Maistre in Grouville. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (25665091)

Earlier this year it was reported that farm workers from Nepal could be brought to Jersey in an effort to help tackle the staffing difficulties that the agriculture industry is facing as fewer EU workers come to the Island.

The fall in the value of the pound since the EU referendum in 2016, improved wages in countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic and uncertainty over freedom of movement within the EU post-Brexit have all been cited as reasons for the lack of interest in working here.

Jersey Farmers’ Union president Peter Le Maistre said that other non-EU countries are now being looked at as potential sources of labour, including Nepal.

‘The good thing is we have been getting quite close to government and we are hoping to get some people from outside of Europe. That’s our aim,’ he said.

‘We are looking at Nepal and at some other non-EU countries as well, but I can’t mention who they are at this time.’

He added: ‘It doesn’t matter where you go in Jersey, everywhere is short of staff – barbers, cafés, hoteliers.

‘So where do you go for staff? How do you run an Island that still wants to expand but wants to control its population? There is a balance to be struck.’

Mr Le Maistre has been a long-term supporter of introducing time-limited work permits for migrant farm workers in Jersey, providing they are restricted to working for one employer.

He said that recent political developments in the UK, such as the increased possibility of a no-deal Brexit, have made it more likely that all EU workers will soon require permits to work in the Island, even if they are returning after working here previously.

‘If there is a no-deal Brexit then all incoming workers will probably be on work permits because there won’t be freedom of movement anymore. So, presumably, everyone from Europe, with the exception of the UK, will need a permit,’ he said.

‘Everyone working here now is okay but if my staff leave me on 20 November, like they usually do, go home for six weeks and come back in January they will probably need a work permit, if there is no deal.’

The introduction of work permits for agriculture employees was proposed as part of previous Chief Minister Ian Gorst’s population policy, which was withdrawn after he was replaced by Senator John Le Fondré.

Jersey’s new population policy is currently under development by the new government. Mr Le Maistre said that the Jersey Farmers’ Union was planning to produce proposals for it by the end of September.

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