Western Morning News

You need the right people for the job


M STAFFORD from Bristol thinks we should not fly in agricultur­al workers from abroad as locals could do the job.

For the last few years before I left I left school I spent four of the six weeks of summer holiday “picking potatoes”. The potato machine would spin out one row of potatoes at a time. The staff would fill their buckets and tip the crop into half hundredwei­ght bags. The work was backbreaki­ng and tiring. You had to clear your section as fast as the adult workers or the machine would be delayed from doing the next row. After four weeks of hard graft I was able to buy my first wristwatch.

On leaving school I was working on a Bodmin Moor farm when a sudden deluge of rain threatened to flood the cattle shed. The farmer asked me to dig a trench to divert the water. After weeks of dry weather the ground was rock hard and I was struggling to penetrate the soil.

He watched me for a few minutes struggling and then nearly knocked me over as grabbed my shovel and said this is how you do it.

He stamped the shovel into the ground and proceeded to excavate the trench. Sixty years later I have not allowed anyone to show me up again.

Mr Stafford, if you tried that on today’s youngsters they would say: “If you are that clever you are the best person to do all the digging.” And that reflects a lot of today’s workers trying to do a manual job.

A few years ago I was doing some stonework on a daffodil farm when Cornish wages were about £200 per week. The foreign workers were paid by the bunch and were earning £60 per day and worked six days. Few locals would do the backbreaki­ng work. In 2,000 we were building a Cornish Hedge in Wales and local councillor­s demanded that I took on some local workers. Three were sent out from the job centre, one a big strong rugby player.

After a period of training and me telling them to work faster, myself, the three locals and a JCB were building seven metres of hedge a day. In the next field, a gang of four Cornish workers were building 40 meters a day.

I needed each gang to build 20 metres a day to cover the cost of the JCB, so the locals had to go.

That, Mr Stafford, is why overseas workers are employed.

Roger Clemens Wadebridge

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