Restaurants are now recruiting PRISONERS to ease worker shortages caused by Brexit and pandemic
- Shelves left empty in recent weeks due to lack of drivers, fruit pickers and more
- Businesses hope to fill gap in vacancies with prisoners via a placement scheme
- Situation likely to get worse when schools and offices re-open in September
A ‘desperate’ shortage of supply chain workers has forced food manufacturers and restaurants to try and recruit prisoners to fill the void.
Recent weeks have seen supermarket shelves across the country left empty as a double whammy of the so-called pingdemic and Brexit has seen a drastic drop in HGV drivers, fruit pickers and factory workers.
Businesses are now desperately attempting to fill the vacancies via a scheme which allows prisoners to undertake paid work on day release – with one lockup having run out of inmates to offer due to the surge in demand.
It comes after prisoners took part in 58,752 days of work-related release between October 2020 and March this year.
But those numbers could increase as the British Retail Consortium warned business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng on Friday that a shortfall of around 90,000 HGV drivers is ‘placing increasingly unsustainable pressure on retailers and their supply chains.’
Businesses are now desperately attempting to fill the vacancies via a scheme which allows prisoners to undertake paid work on day release – with one lockup having run out of inmates to offer due to the surge in demand.. Pictured is an undated file photo of Wandsworth prison
In a letter co-signed by the freight trade group Logistics UK, the group warned that the situation is set to get worse when schools re-open in September and workers head back to offices.
The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers is set to urge HM Prison Service to prioritise food suppliers for the release on temporary licence (ROTL) programme at a meeting this week, reports the Times.
But the group said there is such a high demand there are not enough prisoners to go around.
Spokesperson Tony Goodger said: ‘Last week I contacted HMP Hollesley Bay, in Suffolk, for a member but the rehabilitation officer there told me, “Normally I would bite your hand off, but we have got such a big demand for inmates at the moment that we’ve reached our quota and we are not allowed to let any more out to go to work”.’
Meanwhile, the Working Chance charity, which finds jobs for women with convictions, said inquiries from businesses rose tenfold in the past two months alone.
Countless supply lines have been hit, including poultry factories – leading the likes of Nando’s and KFC to run low on chicken, with the former having to close several branches this week
It comes after a record number of job vacancies – one million – was recorded in July as companies struggled to find workers following the coronavirus lockdown.
Thousands of EU workers left the UK last year and were unable to return due to tougher Brexit rules and strict travel guidelines owing to the pandemic.
Countless supply lines have been hit, including poultry factories – leading the likes of Nando’s and KFC to run low on chicken, with the former having to close several branches this week.
The situation has left businesses no other choice but to try and fill vacancies with inmates.
Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, said: ‘Businesses are leaving no stone unturned to find workers, including contacting charities for ex-servicemen and women and the prison service, as well as advertising on social media to attract younger people, anything they can think of.’
He added: ‘The situation is getting worse. One member said, at this rate, Christmas is going to be a disaster.’
James Bielby, chief executive of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, added: ‘Any discerning shoppers can see there’s already less choice available on the shelves.
‘It won’t go away until after Christmas at the earliest unless the government intervenes.’.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘Helping prisoners find jobs during their sentence and after release makes it much less likely they will reoffend.
‘We will support all industries with skills shortages where possible, and are working towards bringing levels [of release on temporary licence] back up towards pre-pandemic levels as restrictions allow.’