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We treat shopworkers and restaurant staff like dirt, no wonder there is a shortage

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What a mess the country is in right now. The food chain is broken at every stage, from the people who harvest the produce, through the production lines, to the delivery drivers and the people who serve the food in restaurants.

It is partially our own fault as the statement from the Home Office, quoted on the website PoliticsHome, made abundantly clear: ‘The British people repeatedly voted to end free movement and take back control of our immigration system and employers should invest in our domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad,’ a Home Office spokesperson said.

So there you go says the Government with echoes of Norman Tebbit: ‘You’ve made your bed, now you can either lie on it, or get up and go and work on a production line somewhere.’

Sainsbury's Maidstone elderly and vulnerable shopping hour (50679661)
Sainsbury's Maidstone elderly and vulnerable shopping hour (50679661)

Of course, it can’t all be down to Brexit. When David Cameron made the momentous, ego-driven decision to gamble the UK’s future with a referendum little did he know that a global pandemic was just around the corner. The fact that thousands of people are being forced to isolate every day is not helping labour shortages.

And, of course, neither consumers or employers are helping matters. Who wants to work in a restaurant or shop where the customers treat you like a piece of dirt. I have heard young people working in restaurants being vilely abused by people with a heightened sense of their own worth. Barking their orders without any pleasantries is the norm, swearing and shouting because there is a delay in the kitchen is just plain bullying and the perpetrators should be truly ashamed.

Employers should also shoulder a little of the blame. Many parts of the food chain involve unpleasant working conditions. I watched a team of workers picking carrots on a steamingly hot day. At midday they asked if I would fill their drinks bottles as they had run out of water. The least an employer could do is make sure the workforce are hydrated. For too long, seasonal or temporary workers are expected to labour long hours in poor conditions.

Sarah Juggins. (50749628)
Sarah Juggins. (50749628)

Maybe this is a time to press a reset button and make work about something other than just earning money. Maybe it is time for employers to offer something extra, be it training, job prospects, accommodation – anything that makes an employee feel worthwhile.

I don’t know if there are enough people in our country to fill the labour shortages but I do know that far more people might be tempted to take up some of these jobs if they offered better pay, conditions and prospects.

Sarah Juggins writes the WASHED UP column in the Lynn News every fortnight. Her views are entirely her own. Answer them on letters@lynnnews.co.uk

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