Unskilled is a word that gets bandied about at the moment. No-one who has seen workers in action in processing plants or on farms can think for one second that these people are anything other than highly skilled. But this is what labour coming from Europe is classed as in immigration terms.
We seem to be fighting a rear-guard action to protect the workers that help feed the nation, and to defend the need for more migrant labour in the future. Undoubtedly, the work in any aspect of livestock and meat production is hard, the hours often unsociable, and so little recognised by the consumers who benefit the most. We are not an employer of choice, but we must change that, and urgently.
Qualifications, training, and competence are not the problem. We have our own high standards and the weight of consumer expectation that guide our production values. This has helped create a trained and highly skilled workforce that is worthy of more recognition than it receives.
We need to take the next step and professionalise our workforce, to give it the status it deserves. The Institute of Meat has been doing some excellent work to develop the collective standing of meat industry practitioners. We must support these efforts wholeheartedly.
Modesty, hard work, and the satisfaction of a job well done are all very well, but there comes a point when we must realise that if we don’t blow our own trumpet, nobody else is going to do it for us.
A version of this article first appeared in Meat Trades Journal