Industry greets extension of seasonal worker quotas

The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) will be extended until 2013, with the quota remaining at 21,250 Romanian and Bulgarian workers per year, the Government has confirmed.

But under European law, the current restrictions cannot continue beyond the end of 2013.

NFU chief horticulture adviser Hayley Campbell-Gibbons described the announcement as extremely positive news for growers and their customers.

"The focus now is on gaining commitment for a successor to the current SAWS scheme to ensure the continued availability of seasonal migrant labour when these arrangements come to an end," said Campbell.

"This work is already underway with the recent launch of NFU proposals for a new scheme that would retain the essential supply of migrant labour," she added.

"This would also provide training initiatives and welfare benefit adjustments to encourage more UK citizens to take up a job in the horticulture sector."

Meanwhile, in the House of Lords on Monday Defra minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach confirmed that funding for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) will be continued for a further four financial years.

The GLA had been threatened with closure under the coalition's Red Tape Challenge, but Taylor said its expertise would be drawn on to develop initiatives to oversee gang labour in other industries such as construction.

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