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Fruit pickers/Eastern Europeans/why?

(88 Posts)
TheGoodEnoughWife Tue 28-Jun-16 07:14:22

Hi, put this here as was said in relation to the leave vote.

A fruit farmer said on the news last night that if he cannot have Eastern Europeans picking his apples then they would remain unpicked and go to waste.

Just wanted to ask why this would be?

Why aren't there people within the UK wiling to pick them? We have high unemployment so surely the potential for pickers are there?

I have considered it is because workers from outside the UK can be paid less but doesn't the farmer have to pay minimum wage? Or is there some way around that (by offering accommodation perhaps?) or maybe people within the UK don't want to pick the fruit and are holding out for a perceived 'better' job?

I know when I was little my mum would go, along with her friends of similar age/life stage, fruit picking for work but that doesn't happen now - why not?

Would be interested to hear other views on why this might be?

SouthDownsSunshine Tue 28-Jun-16 07:18:38

The farmers will pay minimum wage, although some offer accommodation etc which offsets the cost slightly.

It's highly seasonal work, and you'll often get the same people/families coming over year after year, taking a break in their studies or similar.

I have no idea why British unemployed people won't take the work. It's hard work, yes, but then so are a lot of jobs. Because of its seasonality, it doesn't offer long term job security.

Luckymummy22 Tue 28-Jun-16 07:20:30

It's hard work. The British people prepared to do that job are already working.

It's low paid so why leave your Xbox for the day when benefits cover it.

The sad thing is people, the benefits are going to have to severely cut.

So you're up shit creek. But unfortunately so is everyone else who voted Remain.

NoahVale Tue 28-Jun-16 07:22:25

i saw this, the farmer said because it ws seasonal although i did fruit picking as a teenager.
but perhaps there arent enough teenagers offering their services

Clippersails Tue 28-Jun-16 07:22:27

I live near a huge fruit picking place for a famous jam company.

The company only hires EEs. They offer a 'fruit picking holiday'. Accommodation, food etc and barely any money. They don't advertise in the UK. My friends DS has just left school and phoned about any work. Was told no vacancies. They don't want to pay minimum wage.

HippiePrincess Tue 28-Jun-16 07:23:49

When I was a student I picked fruit. It was good money for a teenager and enabled me to enjoy a bit of social life. Obviously, due to the nature of agriculture, it is temporary work.
No way would it have funded the expenses required for even a modest family life
ALL the temporary immigrant workers I meet live in rented multiple occupancy accommodation, so often a family of three living in a three or four bed house with two or three other small families or a mixture of family/ singles. They share a bathroom and kitchen.

HildurOdegard Tue 28-Jun-16 07:26:06

Fruit-picking was the most emotionally satisfying job I ever did. I was lithe and tanned and happy. I also voted leave.

I'm guessing the reluctance is that the first day you pick all your benefits will come screeching to a halt and it'll take weeks/months to set the wheels in motion again.

In terms of on-site accommodation to reduce the wage, when I picked fruit I went home every night to a hot bath or shower and had hot and cold running water and a flushing loo.

I'll just leave you with that.

Wash your fruit fruit.

NoahVale Tue 28-Jun-16 07:26:15

i imagine the fruit farms are now bigger and more financially viable? it is a bigger business now. my teenage fruit farm is now huge and also employs eastern europeans.
i also worked as a teenager in a factory, they too turned to eastern europeans

WhirlwindHugs Tue 28-Jun-16 07:26:57

It's hard work, but probably the fact that it's seasonal is the main thing that's the problem. You have to get good quickly because if you pick slowly then the farmer's production costs are too high, so you could end up fired at the end of 1 day even though you turned up, tried hard etc just because you aren't used to it. Weather is really important too so farmers can be reluctant to take risks.

Equally going off benefits for a seasonal job might leave you with an 8 week period with no benefits when the job ends because of strict benefit rules.

Meanwhile there are absolutely some unscrupulous farmers who don't give locals a chance. Or worse who willingly employ slave labour and they deserve to be prosecuted.

HippiePrincess Tue 28-Jun-16 07:28:08

If one is claiming means-tested benefits then taking temporary work with interfere with that. So there's the stress of the administration involved in that balanced with no real long term benefit.
Whilst it might be rewarding in the way that outdoor manual work might be for some, it's hardly worth the angst of all the "paperwork" and change in benefits for a bit of strawberry picking on a CV.

HippiePrincess Tue 28-Jun-16 07:29:14


LetThereBeCupcakes Tue 28-Jun-16 07:30:41

DH comes from an area that relies heavily on Eastern Europeans at harvest time. He says the same as most pp's, it's hard work and most British people don't want to do it. I guess a lot of teens are supported by their parents so don't need to work.

He used to work on the farms every year, bit very few of his school friends would do it.

WhirlwindHugs Tue 28-Jun-16 07:32:01

Yeas, I grew up in an agricultural area too. Even my friend the farmer's son worked in a shop instead of picking in the summer!

NoahVale Tue 28-Jun-16 07:32:47

i dont think it is the lack of british people wanting it, i think it is the bigger business incentive that causes the farmers to make this decision

Mistigri Tue 28-Jun-16 07:34:41

The problem is that most of the unemployment in the UK is not where the fruit farms are located. And the unemployed in Britain tend not to be geographically mobile: they have communities and family they do not want to leave, and the structure of benefits in the UK is a disincentive to taking seasonal work.

It's also hard work. Britain is largely a service economy now, and most people aren't used to physical labour.

Better wages would help, but fundamentally the structural problem in the UK is that the available work isn't located in the same place as the people who need it, and doesn't pay enough to make moving for work attractive.

Paintedhandprints Tue 28-Jun-16 07:35:09

I used to work in factories/on farms when I was 15-18. I was in the minority of my peers and this was in the 90's. I guess a lot of parents are less keen to send their kids out to work when they are still at school? Or ot is beneath kids now?

NoahVale Tue 28-Jun-16 07:41:56

no i dont think so, well out of all the people i can think of only one didnt want her dd to work unless she wanted to.
she now has a part time job.
ask on mumsnet, i think you will find 98% of parents want their teens to work part time

redhat Tue 28-Jun-16 07:42:59

I have a couple of clients in this sector. They offset the minimum wage with accommodation. Most UK citizens already have accommodation and want the cash.

Mistigri Tue 28-Jun-16 07:44:37

Farmers running industrial scale farms may not want teenagers working part-time though: they want people who will turn up and work long days over the harvest period. Unless that coincides with the summer holidays, they won't necessarily be looking to employ students.

NoahVale Tue 28-Jun-16 07:44:43

thats the price of strawberries gone up then. although if that means we cant buy european strawberries we Have to buy british
we still lose financially afaics

TheGoodEnoughWife Tue 28-Jun-16 07:45:35

Interesting replies. Thank you.

Like anything am sure there are many reasons!
It seems a shame that young people in the UK don't want or aren't doing this work.
I could see my dd (16/17) working her summer next year picking fruit. In my (probably unrealistic!) ideal she would have a fab summer working hard but honest surrounded by other young adults.

Although I do feel some negativity towards farmers who I suspect don't pay a minimum wage I appreciate that farmers are also squeezed and are struggling with pressure to reduce prices.

Mistigri Tue 28-Jun-16 07:46:32

This is one of the reasons that free movement isn't about to disappear, by the way ;)

Ragwort Tue 28-Jun-16 07:52:39

There was a very interesting radio programme a few months ago when they did an experiment at offering fruit picking jobs to the unemployed ............ (with no sanction to benefits after the 'experiment' was finished). Before the work started a number of the unemployed folk said they would 'do anything' to get back into paid work ................. but the only ones who completed the experiment were the Eastern Europeans.

I hate saying this - but I live in a rural area with a lot of EE workers and they do work incredibly hard; I do know a number of people who actively choose a 'benefits lifestyle' rather than taking on fruit picking/farming work - much of the work is year round now as the farmers diversify to offer different crops etc. I do voluntary work with long term unemployed and one of the comments I have heard is that the 'EE workers work too hard'. sad

It is a very difficult and emotive subject & I wish it could be addressed without the usual hysteria and judgemental attitudes - either towards migrant workers or the long term unemployed.

TheGoodEnoughWife Tue 28-Jun-16 07:53:44

I do get why you say that but is it too late to turn this around?
Is the answer to keep the farmers using people from outside the UK or do we improve the benefit system/encourage students to work/force farmers to use UK workers and pay minimum wage/accept that our fruit will cost more?

I do think we have artificially kept food/goods prices down and, of course, the pinch of these rising would be catastrophic to many people

AntiqueSinger Tue 28-Jun-16 07:54:45

Surely the strength of the pound plays a large part in it. If the pay is lower than minimum wage it won't go anywhere in a British families pocket, but if you're from another country it will actually make a substantial difference.

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