THE owner of a fruit farm near Wellington fears changes in employment law affecting eastern European migrants in the UK could have a damaging effect on her business.
Jan Butterley, of Nynehead Fruit, is worried seasonal workers she hires from Romania and Bulgaria will instead take up full-time employment, leaving her without the staff to cope.
It comes after the Government scrapped the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) this month, meaning migrants from the two countries can apply for higher skilled and permanent roles.
Jan, 69, said: “The worry for me is that all the good workers will go on and get full-time jobs now and I will lose them; that’s what I would do.
“I rely on these people to keep the farm going and couldn’t do it without the seasonal staff.”
The SAWS scheme has allowed fruit and vegetable growers to employ migrant workers from Bulgaria and Romania for six months at a time During the last picking season, Jan, who has been growing raspberries and strawberries on the farm since 1981, hired more than 30 foreign workers to help out.
She believes the scrapping of the scheme, along with the lack of interest from British workers, will eventually take its toll.
“It is similar to getting British workers,” she said. “All the good ones are in full-time jobs so the only ones I tend to get are those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and they come and work for me for a few months.
“The foreign seasonal workers, especially with good English, will now be looking for the better, permanent jobs to support their families.”
She added: “I think for a few years it will be alright. These people have enough sense not to all pile over here looking for full-time work when there aren’t that many about.”
In July, 2012, there were 94,000 Romanian-born people and 47,000 Bulgarian-born people living in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.