|Step aside Wrangle ... |
Staples are moving in
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Employers "shun" migrant meeting ... WHY?
By pure co-incidence there appears to be an underlying theme to the issues under discussion so far this week.
On Monday we talked about over-population - which included the prevention of large scale house building until the Boston flood barrier is in place - and yesterday the issue of flood defences themselves.
This morning, we’re back with population matters, as tonight sees the latest meeting of the Task and Finish Group on the Social Impact of Population Change on Boston.
The meeting is supposed to be taking evidence from employers – but according to the Facebook page of the Boston protest marchers – who play a key role in these sessions – none plan to attend, and instead there will just be representation from the GMB union and the Gangmasters Licensing Association.*
Some interesting questions were proposed for employers - including asking why they only take on staff through third parties such as gangmasters and agencies, and whether people would be more eager to work if these middlemen were bypassed and jobs offered directly to workers at the rate they would have charged.
Questions directly relating to immigration included asking whether employing people who cannot speak English impacts on a safe working environment, and if health and safety rules are being followed and understood; whether employing large numbers of EU citizens alienates English people who are looking for work; and why employers feel that the English are lazy and don't want work?
The Facebook page also notes the recent application by Staples Vegetables in Wrangle to increase the size of the 41 caravan “village” it created a while ago.
That development houses almost 250 staff employed under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme - SAWS - which takes on mainly students studying agriculture from outside the European economic area.
The plan - which was supported by Boston Borough Council - was initially turned down - but was approved on appeal.
Now, Staples wants to put another 22 caravans on the site - bringing the total to 63 – and increasing the numbers of students from 246 to a maximum of 378 … after a local recruitment drive for more than 130 new staff attracted only 11 applicants, eight of whom were British.
Staples says that this is the main reason why large agricultural businesses have to rely on agency staff or, alternatively, as is the case with them, provide a “better solution” by housing, training and looking after its own workforce.
It might have been helpful to have seen someone from the company at tonight’s Task and Finish Group, as a lot of questions could have been addressed - but it seems this will not be the case.
However, at this rate the farm’s caravan site will soon upstage the village of Wrangle – whose population is currently around 1,084 – it’s already about a third of the way.
The entries on the Protest Marchers’ Facebook page also include reference to a possible demonstration – and a call for “as many as possible” to attend.
It’s impossible to say whether the two might be connected – because a national satellite TV news network may attend tonight’s meeting ... which could also be a reason.
Either way, it is a pity that a key area in which questions need to be asked and answered may be ignored by a refusal of employers to co-operate.
One can but question whether they feared that their answers might not be what people wanted to hear.
*Since this morning's blog was published, Independent Councillor Richard Leggott, who is a member of the Task and Finish group, has e-mailed to say that he has been told that local farmer Sarah Pettit, who is also Chairman of National Farmers' Union Horticultural Committee, will be attending this evening to answer questions.
The group's Deputy Chairman, Councillor Paul Gleeson, also tells us that there is a representative from the Department of Work and Pensions attending tonight's meeting, to deal with benefit matters.
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