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23rd Aug 2021

Let us use prisoners to ease labour shortages, food firms beg government

Kieran Galpin


Prisoners could be given jobs currently left unfilled due to Brexit and Covid

The food industry wants the government to let them use prisoners to fill the labour gap caused by Brexit and Covid.

Suppliers are hoping to hire staff through a scheme that allows inmates to undertake paid work outside of the prison system. The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, which represents butchers, abattoirs and processors, is set to discuss the issue with the Ministry of Justice on Monday.

The association also hopes to use ex-servicemen and women to fill the same vacancies.

“Much of the food industry is facing a recruitment crisis,” said Tony Goodger of the meat suppliers’ association. “The advice we have received from the Home Office is that the UK’s domestic labour force should take priority. However hard we and many of the members have tried, staffing remains a challenge.”

Goodger said that last week he contacted HMP Hollesley Bay in Suffolk, but the rehabilitation officer told him: “We’ve reached our quota and we are not allowed to let any more out to go to work.”

“[we]leaving no stone unturned, ” Goodger said.

The UK currently faces a shortfall of 90,000 HGV drivers “and it is consumers who will ultimately suffer for this”, British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

“So far, disruption has been minimal thanks to the incredible work by retailers and their suppliers. Retailers are increasing pay rates, offering bonuses and introducing new driver training schemes, as well as directly supporting their suppliers in the movement of goods, but government will need to play its part.”

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