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Growers concern that labour proposals threaten future growth of ornamental horticulture sector

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Growers are concerned that proposals around future foreign labour requirements will hinder the future expansion of the ornamental horticulture sector.

HTA has responded to the Migratory Advisory Committee (MAC) call for evidence on Salary Threshold and Points-Based System Commission. The MAC proposed that a £30,000 salary threshold is maintained for full time workers coming to work in the UK from abroad. The adoption of an Australian style points-based system would see applicants scored on factors such as education levels and language skills.

In its response HTA have stated that the proposed salary threshold of £30,000 for full time employees from overseas is too high and will prohibit many skilled and experienced workers from joining the UK horticultural workforce. HTA has called for the MAC to review the Shortage Occupation List, as currently horticulture is not included as an exemption. Supervisory and technical roles are the hardest to fill in the area of plant production, so a wider approach is needed so that work experience and acquired knowledge is recognised alongside any formal qualifications.

The recently published 2019 Ornamental Horticulture Skills Survey* highlights that the sector is facing a critical skills challenge with the ability to find staff with the right skills and qualifications being the most commonly reported issue.  This position is set to be exacerbated further with the proposals in their current form.

As part of the response HTA have highlighted how the horticulture industry has a desire to expand, particularly in the area of import substitution. Access to labour is a key part of this strategy which is proving to be a barrier to expansion and this is where Government help is required in order to secure labour from overseas.

Commenting on the response Martin Emmett, Chair of the HTA Ornamentals Committee said,
“Labour shortages of both seasonal and full-time workers are a key concern for the horticulture industry, particularly at a time when there is a need and desire for expansion. Access to a skilled and experienced labour force is critical and this is why the proposed salary threshold needs to be lowered so that knowledgeable and skilled workers from abroad can continue to contribute to UK horticulture.”

He adds, “The ornamental horticulture sector makes a significant contribution to the UK economy with ornamental plants worth £1.35 billion produced and sold in the UK during 2017.  Importantly, it also contributes to the environment helping to mitigate the causes of climate change. The growth of the sector is dependent on having a sufficient workforce to allow for its expansion to enable these wider benefits to be fully realised.”

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