Workers scared off by foot-and-mouth

20 July 2001

Workers scared off by foot-and-mouth

By Tom Allen-Stevens

FOOT-AND-MOUTH has left many seasonal harvest labour posts unfilled, it emerged this week.

The positions are usually taken up by visiting students or seasonal workers from overseas. But the fear of spreading F&M has shut off the usual influx of part-time staff from countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

"There is a big scare factor about working in the UK," said Strutt and Parkers Will Gemmill. "We normally get 40-50 applications to fill 20-25 posts for harvest casuals, but this year we struggled to get 20-30, and only just managed to fill our slots."

Strutt and Parker started advertising for harvest casuals in February, just as the crisis broke. "We normally get a lot of interest from Irish lads from about May onwards, but had nothing this year, so had to advertise again. You only have to look at the number of adverts running in farmers weekly to see that we are not the only ones having problems," Mr Gemmill added.

One of his chief concerns is the calibre of labour available. "I would not say the quality has been that great this year. We normally like to run applicants through a tractor test, but this year we had to take whatever we could get."

The news of labour shortages coincided with the release on Wednesday (July 18) of the Health and Safety Executives annual farm accident figures. They show 53 people were killed on farms in the year to April, 32 of whom were self-employed farmers, running their business single-handed.

NFU president, Ben Gill, said he feared that the figures reflected the dangers posed to those struggling on with a drastically reduced workforce.

"Every death is a desperate tragedy," he said. "I fear that the huge job losses from the industry, falling profitability, under-investment and the stress that goes with this all have a part in the story behind these headline figures." &#42

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