Covid Brexit Labour crisis food firms beg government to let them use more prisoners

Food manufacturers are pleading with ministers to be allowed to use more prisoners to help solve the labour crisis blamed on Brexit and Covid-19.

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), which represents butchers, abattoirs and processors, said it is working with the Ministry of Justice to explore how its members could recruit more current inmates and ex-offenders.

Tony Goodger, of AIMS, said: “Much of the food industry is facing a recruitment crisis. 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.”

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Goodger said that last week he had contacted HMP Hollesley Bay in Suffolk, but was told that due to such an overwhelming demand for inmates “we’ve reached our quota and we are not allowed to let any more out to go to work”.

The prisoner day-release scheme was stopped during the pandemic, but some prisons have recently started reintroducing it.

Meanwhile, a national shortage of approximately 90,000 lorry drivers is leading to gaps on supermarket shelves, as well as rebate disparities among symbol groups and food-waste issues.

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