MEAT PROCESSORS are continuing to battle against labour issues and rising operating costs.

Speaking after the November meeting of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesaler’s executive council, association president Alan McNaughton said that there had been no significant easing of labour pressures over the last month, and the UK Government's response to the situation was 'lamentable'.

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“Members are working hard to maintain meat supplies to retail customers in the run-up to the Christmas and New Year holiday period,” said Mr McNaughton. “This is always a pressured peak-demand time for businesses but the stress under which companies are working this year is unprecedented.

“The combination of our industry’s under-lying shortage of skilled workers and the continued disruption to staff availability caused by Covid-19 has pushed many businesses to the edge of their capacity. The Government’s visa system and language requirements are too restrictive to be of any real help in the urgent staffing position in which member businesses find themselves," he said. "The rules attached to the system are proving successful only in stifling our ability to recruit much needed skilled staff from overseas.

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“In addition to being unable to attract new workers, despite raising wage rates across our industry, member companies are also having to pick up the bill for rising labour costs from our suppliers. Just about everyone who provides meat companies with products or services, from the major energy companies to individual specialists, are having to pay more for their staff and are passing their increased costs on to our members," claimed Mr McNaughton.

“This is creating a tidal wave of rising costs across the meat production and supply chain which will inevitably ‘hit home’ at some point in the future. It is lamentable that the UK Government continues to completely ignore the warning signs. That Ministers are still suggesting that businesses need to sort these problems out on their own is not an acceptable position. This will ultimately rebound on consumers through reduced product availability and higher prices."