15 November 1996

10,000 lose jobs during BSE crisis

MORE than 10,000 people in the UK have lost their jobs since March due to the BSE crisis and a further 20,000 have been placed on shorter working hours or limited contracts.

The four-month study by the Consortium of Rural Training and Enterprise Councils is the first UK-wide employment survey, but senior researchers believe the redundancies may represent just the tip of the iceberg.

The study looked at all aspects of rural society affected by the BSE crisis, including farmers, meat processors, abattoirs, livestock auctions, agricultural engineers and road haulage companies.

Malcolm Turner, researcher and Somerset TEC spokesman, said it had been impossible to obtain exact information due to the diverse nature of the industry: "There has been a marked reluctance for obvious political reasons to hand over the information. We have had to rely on examples of cases across the country."

Details of losses

The TEC survey approached a number of employment and rural organisations for details of job losses, including the Employment Services, trade unions, Road Haulage Association, National Farmers Union and Country Landowners Association.

Mr Turner said the piecemeal approach of the survey meant it was more difficult to obtain additional EU funding for retraining workers. "One of the main reasons for the delay in publishing our survey has been the difficulty in obtaining data," he added.

Barry Leathwood, Transport and General Workers Union agricultural spokesman, criticised the government for failing to secure EU Commission cash to retrain workers made redundant.

Mr Leathwood said the TUC, which set up a BSE committee in the summer to bring together unions and others affected by the crisis, had been frustrated by the lack of help. "I have met farm commissioner Fischler, social affairs commissioner Flynn and transport commissioner Kinnock, and all say money is available which is not being taken up by government.

"On the other hand, I have still to meet farm minister Douglas Hogg despite requests."