SAWS loss triggers labour changes

While established seasonal labour suppliers to UK horticulture adapt to the loss of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS), Staffline, a major cross-sectoral recruiter, has established a new agricultural and horticultural division.

The company, which places around 30,000 staff a week from more than 200 offices, has taken on Jimmy Davies and Laura Savage, both formerly of HOPS Labour Solutions, to lead the division. Savage explained: "The Staffline name is well-known in many other sectors and they saw opportunities with SAWS going to use skills from those sectors.

"We have the scale to keep people in the industry for longer by stacking up a range of work for them through the year, which might include work in other sectors such as at Christmas. There are a lot of options."

She added: "We are Sedex-registered, which gives growers confidence from the fact that we are being fully ethically compliant."

In the absence of Davies and Savage, HOPS has dropped its programme of recruiting and training UK nationals. Farm support officer Glyn Smith said: "We will be concentrating on our core business of recruiting workers from overseas. Other things will depend on who comes in as our new operations manager."

He added: "We don't envisage having labour issues in 2014 - there will still be workers from ex-SAWS countries, though it may be harder to keep them on farms."

Fellow farm support officer Anthony Warmington added: "Without SAWS keeping them there, it will be up to the farms themselves to give them a good standard of living and working."

Another major supplier of SAWS labour, Concordia will also continue to recruit in Eastern Europe on the sector's behalf. Education manager Amy Eaves said: "We continued working with our agents in the A8 accession countries (once they were no longer eligible for SAWS) and will continue working in the A2 countries (Romania and Bulgaria) in the same way. There are still a lot of people in those countries who are keen to come over"

She added: "We are also working with JobCentre Plus to recruit UK nationals, though it's not entirely clear that's an answer to the sector's labour problems."

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