Government 'don't fully understand impact' of huge visa rule change for foreign workers, Cranswick boss warns

The boss of Yorkshire food production giant Cranswick has urged the Government to rethink an “extraordinary” rise in minimum salary requirements for foreign workers.

Adam Couch, CEO of the Hull-headquartered firm, told The Yorkshire Post that the decision to increase the salary threshold for those arriving in the UK on Skilled Worker visas from £26,200 to £38,700 has the potential to cause serious issues for businesses like Cranswick.

He said while the impact of the change has been “mitigated” so far for Cranswick by the firm hiring more than 650 workers from the Philippines – a process that initially began in response to butcher shortages linked to Brexit.

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But Mr Couch added: "Our concern is going further forward. We have seen what the effect is like when we struggle for butchers in particular. That would be my major concern.

Cranswick's CEO has questioned the Government's approach to foreign workersCranswick's CEO has questioned the Government's approach to foreign workers
Cranswick's CEO has questioned the Government's approach to foreign workers

"I think the work our teams have done to date in getting the numbers of butchers on site will mitigate much of that pressure but it doesn’t help when the Government has actually increased that threshold to the extent that they have. At the moment, that impact we have mitigated.

"The Government should revise the salary. Taking it from £26,000 to £38,000 was extraordinary and I’m not sure they fully understand the impact that will have on the food and farming sector.

"It is not just our area that will be impacted and we are not on our own making this case to them. They are many other sectors also doing the same and they should revise that threshold.”

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He said the change should have been “a smaller and more considered rise”

"It is extraordinary to move it from where it was to where it is now.”

The increased salary threshold is part of a package of Government measures designed to reduce the number of people arriving in Britain by 300,000 a year and Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said on Tuesday he acknowledges it “presents a recruitment challenge for some employers in certain sectors, particularly those that have relied more on migration in the past”.

But he added: “This is also a huge opportunity for the thousands of jobseekers within our domestic workforce to move into roles that have previously been filled by overseas workers.”

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A Home Office spokesperson said: “These changes to the salary threshold strike the right balance between reducing net migration and ensuring businesses invest in and recruit from the domestic workforce, while also ensuring the skilled worker route cannot be used as a source of low-cost labour.”

Mr Couch spoke to The Yorkshire Post as Cranswick posted operating profits of £185.1m for the year ending March 30 – a 26 per cent increase on the previous year.

Revenue was up almost 12 per cent to £2.599bn.

The full-year dividend for shareholders was up 13.4 per cent to 90p, representing 34 years of unbroken dividend growth.

Mr Couch said the latter statistic was one he was particularly proud of for the firm, which has over 14,000 workers across the country.

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“It is testimony entirely to the quality of the staff we have got at every single level within our business. They do an absolutely exceptional job.”

The company is currently making a series of investments across the business, including a £62m programme to redevelop its primary processing site in Hull.

"The Yorkshire region is still our heartland,” he said.

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