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Welsh businesses unable to re-open post-lockdown due to Brexit staff shortages

01 Jun 2021 4 minutes Read
Harlech food services Ltd Director David Cattrall . Picture Mandy Jones

The boss of a Welsh food distribution company is calling for a special dispensation for workers from Europe to come to work in pubs, restaurants and hotels.

David Cattrall, the managing director of Harlech Foodservice, believes that they should be exempt from Brexit restrictions – just like fruit pickers coming from the continent to work on British farms.

There was huge frustration in the hospitality sector, he said, because many businesses were unable to reopen because of staff shortages caused by the UK leaving the European Union.

“We’re now seeing things steadily return and we’re getting very close now to parity with pre-Covid, 2019 levels of trade,” David Cattrall said.

“However, there are many customers who still haven’t opened and that’s mainly down to two reasons. Some of the properties are difficult in terms of the social restrictions that are still in place.

“The other factor is Brexit. Many customers are struggling to recruit staff. The biggest shortage is chefs, but it’s not just chefs – it’s right across the board in the tourism and hospitality industry.

“That’s affecting our customers’ ability to trade and the reason is Brexit and staff displacement during lockdown, with people finding jobs outside the industry after everything closed down, with people moving from hospitality to industries that were open.”

‘Difficult’

He said that the businesses with enough staff to get going again were doing a roaring trade because of the pent up demand.

Harlech Foodservice, which has bases in Criccieth in Gwynedd and Chester, has also been gearing up for a return to normal levels of trade.

They’re also on the lookout for larger premises in the Chester area as a staging post to increase sales.

“We’re seeing more customers opening every week and we are seeing sales returning as well,” David Cattrall said. “We’re not back to full speed but bear in mind sales were down 90 per cent when we were in full lockdown.

“The customers that are open and have enough people are doing really, really well.

“What we’re hearing is that the likes of Hickory’s or Robinson’s and other good operators are significantly out-performing 2019.

“It’s difficult to book in the places that are open but there is a shortage of places that are open.

“Schools are back to normal so we are seeing our education business return to normal. We’re seeing our schools contracts back to 2019 levels.

“There is optimism out there for a really good summer if we can sort out the staff shortage so that our customers can fulfil their potential.”

‘Ludicrous’

He said that in the medium to longer-term they needed to do more in terms of training apprentices, but as there was very low level of unemployment in the country they needed to employ people from across the European continent.

“By and large these are jobs that British people do not want,” he said. “Brexit turned the tap off and the other problem is that people can’t come in because of Covid restrictions.

“Farmers are allowed to bring in people from Europe to pick fruit but the hospitality industry isn’t allowed to do that.

“As a matter of urgency, the hospitality industry needs exactly the same kind of dispensation to bring in people from Europe. Without special dispensation, we’re putting higher skilled jobs at risk which may well be filled by British people.

“We need to be able to turn the tap back on because not to be able to fill these jobs is absolutely ludicrous.

“If we don’t we are going to damage an industry that is hugely important to our economy and that just doesn’t make sense. Let common sense prevail.”

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Alexander Williams
Alexander Williams
15 days ago

Who voted for Brexit? NOT me!

hdavies15
hdavies15
15 days ago

Time to ditch the “lazy natives” stereotype in Wales and UK wide, or does it contain more than a grain of truth ?

Shan Morgain
15 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Research showed that it was English incomers in Wales who voted for Brexit. Well the English will need to learn to do without quite a lot of things now.

hdavies15
hdavies15
15 days ago
Reply to  Shan Morgain

Nice sweeping racist generalisation which happily suits me for now, but racist nevertheless.

hdavies15
hdavies15
15 days ago
Reply to  Shan Morgain

..P.S elsewhere on this site the LibDems are blaming those English in-migrants for their obliteration as a political presence in Wales. Shucks I’m almost feeling sorry for all those Saeson who came here for a quiet life !

Gaynor
Gaynor
15 days ago
Reply to  Shan Morgain

You should speak to the locals where I worked in Carms. Remeber the convi at the time. Most English customers pro Europe , many Welshies anti Europe, maybe 40%. In pubs that percentage would be 60% anti,

Notta Bott
Notta Bott
15 days ago
Reply to  Gaynor

theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/sep/22/english-people-wales-brexit-research

Facts don’t care about your feelings Karens

Charles Evans
Charles Evans
14 days ago
Reply to  Shan Morgain

Quite possibly, though I’d like to point out quite a lot of English people voted against Brexit!

Vaughan
Vaughan
14 days ago
Reply to  Shan Morgain

Sorry but that is simply not true.
eg Ceredigion high number of English incomers voted remain .

South Wales Valleys nearly all Welsh born voted leave.

Ann Swindale
Ann Swindale
14 days ago
Reply to  Vaughan

Agreed, mostly due to the reliance on the anti-EU Fleet At press.
Why did Wales shoot itself in the foot in this referendum?

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/27/wales-referendum-remain-leave-vote-uk-eu-membership?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Copy_to_clipboard

Quornby
Quornby
15 days ago

Brexit consequence No 126.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
15 days ago

Don’t worry businesses – those golden uplands are only 50years away !

Neil Anderson
Neil Anderson
15 days ago

Of course, it would be counter-productive to put wages up in some sort of laissez-faire way as if it were a free market that might attract more locals to work. We know that people (fruit pickers, bar staff, nurses) don’t work as hard when they are paid more. Quite different for top bosses, who need to be bribed away from the golf course and the yacht everyday with generous salaries. Is this in any way similar to the market for seafood, of which the UK only eats cheaper varieties. If the cost of scallops, oysters, crab and prawns, say, were… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
15 days ago
Reply to  Neil Anderson

Interesting views there, Neil. The poor wages paid to the jobs you cite, either in relative terms or in some cases absolute terms, certainly reflect badly on our economy. Similarly those who harvest sea food work hard and long to fetch it in to market then middle men and major retail outlets skim off much of the “added value”

John Owen
John Owen
15 days ago

Why should there be a dispensation for non uk hospitality workers to fill the void , perhaps the time has come for Hospitality operators to pay decent wages, counteract the anti social hours element and provide stable all year round employement by using the out of season time to enhance training and qualification, sadly the majority will not they want a disposable workforce willing to work for low pay, antisocial hours, and poor management dictating at a whim how many hours you get, having to rely on gratuties to top up wages, name any other industry in this modern era… Read more »

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
14 days ago

Let’s try again, shall we? “Mr Foskett revealed the company had already been forced to place staff on short-time, resulting in a 40% pay cut for the workforce. Harlech said it navigated the difficult summer months with the net loss of just one job – with 17 redundancies and 16 new roles created – after the newly-appointed managing director, David Cattrall, restructured the company.” October 2020. So fire and re-hire at  lower wages, a 40% pay cut and taking as much money from furlough, Job Retention Scheme and “Eat Out To Help Out” as possible didn’t work out? I wonder… Read more »

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