Brexo­dus of EU wor­kers hits Bri­tish em­ployers

Pé­nu­rie de main d’oeuvre outre-Manche.

Vocable (Anglais) - - Édito | Sommaire - KIMIKO DE FREYTAS-TAMURA

Au Royaume-Uni, cer­taines in­dus­tries ont énor­mé­ment de dif­fi­cul­tés pour re­cru­ter du per­son­nel de­puis le ré­fé­ren­dum sur le Brexit. Cette pé­nu­rie touche par­ti­cu­liè­re­ment le sec­teur agri­cole, où 90% des em­plois sai­son­niers sont oc­cu­pés par des étran­gers. Reportage à For­doun, dans le nord de l’Ecosse.

The first ink­ling that Ross Mit­chell knew so­me­thing had gone awry was when a bus­load of Bul­ga­rians he had hi­red to pick blue­ber­ries last month fai­led to ap­pear. The way he saw it, they had been “hi­ja­cked.”

2.The real ex­pla­na­tion was ra­ther more pro­saic but no more pa­la­table: Du­ring a one­night sto­po­ver in Bir­min­gham, a ci­ty on the way to Mit­chell’s farm in nor­thern Scot­land, the 30 Bul­ga­rians were lu­red by a fac­to­ry of­fe­ring more at­trac­tive wages. They never made it to their ori­gi­nal des­ti­na­tion.

3.The di­ver­sion of his work­force meant that Mit­chell, a fruit sup­plier for a ma­jor su­per-

mar­ket chain in Bri­tain, lost 50 tons of fruit worth half a mil­lion pounds in a mat­ter of weeks. Mit­chell is not alone in his dis­tress. Si­mi­lar anec­dotes have been re­por­ted by a wide range of em­ployers, no­ta­bly the Na­tio­nal Health Ser­vice and the hos­pi­ta­li­ty sec­tor. It is a phe­no­me­non tied to Bri­tain’s de­ci­sion to leave the Eu­ro­pean Union.

4.Since then, thou­sands of Eu­ro­peans have al­rea­dy left Bri­tain or have de­ci­ded not to re­turn, cau­sing a si­gni­fi­cant drop in mi­gra­tion to the country. Net mi­gra­tion in the year en­ding in June fell by 106,000, about a third, the go­vern­ment said, “the lar­gest fall in any 12-month per­iod since re­cords be­gan in 1964.”


5.Hospitals are strug­gling to hire doc­tors and nurses. Bri­tish uni­ver­si­ties are fai­ling to at­tract fo­rei­gn aca­de­mics and stu­dents. Ban­kers are loo­king for jobs in Ger­ma­ny and France. The construc­tion sec­tor war­ned that Bri­tish in­fra­struc­ture fa­ced “se­vere set­backs” if Bri­tain did not train en­ough wor­kers to stem a short­fall in la­bo­rers from EU coun­tries. About half of all construc­tion wor­kers in Lon­don and the South East are fo­rei­gn­born.

6.The “Brexo­dus,” as it is cal­led, is being felt par­ti­cu­lar­ly acu­te­ly in the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try, which re­lies hea­vi­ly on ma­nual la­bo­rers, es­pe­cial­ly from poor Eu­ro­pean coun­tries like Ro­ma­nia and Bul­ga­ria. While Eu­rope is ex­pe­rien­cing a boom in “dis­po­sable” wor­kers who are sent to all cor­ners of the Conti­nent, ma­ny ap­pear to be shun­ning Bri­tain.

Far­mers are doing eve­ry­thing to per­suade wor­kers from the rest of Eu­rope to come work for them.

7.In Mit­chell’s case, the si­gns star­ted ap­pea­ring in the au­tumn af­ter the June 2016 re­fe­ren­dum on Brexit. “There were no-shows, people star­ted chan­ging their minds,” he said. “Guys who’ve wor­ked five, six years with us star­ted saying, ‘We’re not re­tur­ning.’”

8. Across Bri­tain, fruit far­mers like Mit­chell are al­rea­dy scram­bling to re­cruit and re­tain wor­kers ahead of next spring, when the competition for an ever-shrin­king pool of la­bor will be at its fier­cest.


9.Bri­tish agri­cul­ture ex­pe­rien­ced a la­bor short­fall of bet­ween 13 percent and 29 percent on a month­ly ba­sis from May to Sep­tem­ber, ac­cor­ding to the Na­tio­nal Far­mers Union. John Hard­man, di­rec­tor at Hops La­bour So­lu­tions, a sup­plier of tem­po­ra­ry wor­kers, said that la­bor fell by as much as 40 percent du­ring the peak sea­son bet­ween April and Sep­tem­ber com­pa­red with the same per­iod last year. In­dus­try of­fi­cials and ex­perts ex­pect the shor­tage to be worse in 2018.

10.Far­mers are doing eve­ry­thing to per­suade wor­kers from the rest of Eu­rope to come work for them: bet­ter wages and condi­tions — in some cases, as high as 15 pounds (17 €) an hour — En­glish les­sons, even ac­cess to ten­nis courts and mo­vie thea­ters. Still, re­crui­ting has been dif­fi­cult.

11.In Bri­tain, the Brexit vote fo­cu­sed on im­mi­gra­tion, and sup­por­ters of the exit op­tion com­plai­ned that wor­kers, es­pe­cial­ly from EU mem­ber states like Ro­ma­nia and Bul­ga­ria, were stea­ling jobs from born-and-bred Bri­tons. The de­bates around the 2016 re­fe­ren­dum were do­mi­na­ted by di­vi­sive is­sues of race, re­li­gion and to­le­rance.

12.Brexit sup­por­ters, for example, said that conti­nued mem­ber­ship ex­po­sed Bri­tain to a new wave of Mus­lim im­mi­gra­tion and made it more vul­ne­rable to Is­la­mist ra­di­cals. The Brexit cam­pai­gn was sup­por­ted by some right-wing and na­tio­na­list groups, and the vote gave rise to concerns that mi­no­ri­ties and im­mi­grants would be more vul­ne­rable to hate crimes, which rea­ched re­cord le­vels this year, ac­cor­ding to the Home Of­fice.


13.The “Brexo­dus” has been com­poun­ded by a fall in the va­lue of the pound against the euro. For mi­grants from Bul­ga­ria and Ro­ma­nia, the wea­ker cur­ren­cy has made the jour­ney to Bri­tain less wor­thw­hile; there are si­mi­lar jobs clo­ser to home, in Ger­ma­ny and the Ne­ther­lands, for example.

14.The la­bo­rers who now come to Bri­tain tend to be ol­der and less skilled, ac­cor­ding to far­mers, who say hi­ring Bri­tish wor­kers is near­ly im­pos­sible. “It’s di­sap­poin­ting that you can’t re­cruit U.K. na­tio­nals,” said Hard­man of Hops, the agen­cy that re­cruits sea­so­nal la­bo­rers. “It’s not at­trac­tive for them. They find it be­neath them.”

15.For Mit­chell, the Scot­tish far­mer, the is­sue is urgent and no lon­ger li­mi­ted to agri­cul­ture but to the en­tire eco­no­my. Eve­ryone, he said, is figh­ting for the same la­bor pool. “It’s like the Wild West,” he said. “It’s the sur­vi­val of the fit­test.”

(The New York Times)

A Ro­ma­nian mi­grant wor­ker at Cast­le­ton Farm in For­doun, Scot­land.

(The New York Times.)

Bul­ga­rian mi­grant wor­kers plant straw­ber­ries at Cast­le­ton Farm.

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