Temporary visas for abattoir workers

26 October, 2021

A shortage of butchers in the UK has seen farmers destroy 6,600 healthy pigs due to a backlog on farms.

To tackle the problem, the Government has agreed to allow hundreds of foreign abattoir workers into the UK on temporary visas, after warnings from farmers of further mass culls.

Last week, the National Farmer's Union (NFU) warned that pig farmers were "facing a human disaster" due to the shortage of butchers.

The Government is temporarily extending its seasonal workers scheme to pork butchers with up to 800 pork butchers being eligible to apply until the end of the year for six-month visas.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: "A unique range of pressures on the pig sector over recent months, such as the impacts of the pandemic and its effect on export markets, have led to the temporary package of measures we are announcing.

"This is the result of close working with industry to understand how we can support them through this challenging time."

The government added that the temporary visas "are not a long term solution and businesses must make long term investments in the UK domestic workforce to build a high-wage, high-skill economy, instead of relying on overseas labour".

Alongside the temporary visas, the government announced a package of measures for the industry, including:

  • Animals being slaughtered and processed on a Saturday
  • Longer working days in the meat industry, where possible
  • A "private storage aid scheme" which will allow processors to store slaughtered pigs for three to six months
  • Suspending nearly £1m of tax on pig farmers and producers in November

It said there had been "a suspension of approval to export to China for some UK pork establishments" and that it was working with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board to identify other export markets.

The extension of visa requirements for butchers follows the announcement of temporary visas for lorry drivers and poultry workers, as the government seeks to limit disruption in the run-up to Christmas.

Update: Following the Autumn Budget announcement, the Government is extending the HGV levy suspension until 2021 and freezing the vehicle excise duty for HGV vehicles.

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