Scotland ‘heavily reliant’ on EU workers
THE heavy dependence of the UK seafood processing industry on EU workers came under the spotlight at the Humber Seafood Summit in Grimsby. And it was highest in the Grampian region of Scotland.
But questions were also raised about what will happen if many of these workers decide to return home after Brexit. And one Scottish member of the audience said this was already happening north of the border and was leading to problems.
Hazel Curtis, chief economist at Seafish, told the conference that earlier this year Seafish had carried out a detailed survey on the make-up of people working in fish processing.
‘There are a lot of EU workers, especially from eastern Europe, in this industry. You only have to go to Scotland to sea health and safety notices written in Polish and other East European languages.’
The results showed that 57 per cent of workers were from the UK, with 42 per cent from the EU. The remaining one per cent came from other parts of the world.
But the processing sector also offered fairly secure work, with 82 per cent on permanent contracts and 14 per cent working for agencies.
And there were also some contrasting regional differences, with 70 per cent of workers in Scotland from the EU, while on Humberside (mainly Grimsby) the figure was just 18 per cent - or around 1,000 people.
Simon Dwyer, secretariat to Grimsby Fish Merchants’ Association and a key part of cluster organisation Seafood Grimsby and Humber, said: ‘We have 5,000 jobs and it is an interesting statistic that we could be looking for another 1,000 to replace the 18 per cent we could lose.’
Curtis said it was important to keep up with the (changing) trends in labour movements, and for that reason Seafish would now be gathering data four times a year.