European workers ‘are no longer interested in coming to Jersey’

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EUROPEAN workers have not been interested in coming to Jersey since Brexit and additional planned population controls are likely to exacerbate the trend, according to Jersey Farmers’ Union president Peter Le Maistre.

Chief Minister John Le Fondré has lodged a proposition calling for a new migration control framework which would introduce several new types of work permit, as well as requiring incoming workers to declare their criminal records and complete stricter identity profiles.

The proposals, which would update the Control of Housing and Work laws, are the latest stage in the government’s attempt to reduce ‘reliance on inward migration’.

Because of Brexit, EU nationals lost the right to live and work in Jersey without a visa at the beginning of last year. Meanwhile, nine-month work permits for the agriculture, hospitality and fishing industries were introduced, as well as three-year ‘skilled worker’ permits.

Mr Le Maistre said that his industry was coping well since the initial permits had been introduced but was no longer recruiting any European staff.

He said: ‘Generally, we do not have any staff shortages at the moment. Last year, we had some issues because we could not get people here due to Covid-19. We have actually got a reasonably good supply of workers from the Philippines now.

‘The only problem we have got going forward is with finding skilled workers, such as tractor drivers and herdsmen. The staff we are getting from the Philippines seem happy with the work-permit system but we are not getting any new staff from Europe any more.

‘As a union, we have only had one approach from Europe in the past 18 months. European staff don’t seem to be interested in coming to Jersey and that has been the case since Brexit. If you are asking Polish people, for example, to apply for a visa and work permit and to pay for it, when they can instead go and work in Germany where they don’t have to do that, then they are going to go to Germany, not here.’

He added that the government had ‘insufficient data’ to put together an ‘effective population strategy’.

‘We have no figures on what the staff shortages are in the Island and we really need that,’ he said.

‘We probably need net migration of around 300 people per year. Any more than that and it will start threatening the green space and fields that our industry needs.’

Assistant Chief Minister Rowland Huelin said that the law changes would allow population numbers to be better managed.

He said: ‘Sitting alongside the common population policy, which the States Assembly will be debating in February, these amendments will introduce a mechanism to better control and manage who comes to the Island to live and work.

‘This government has committed to reducing Jersey’s reliance on inward migration and this is another positive step towards achieving that aim.

‘Having amended the core legislation, the next steps will be to enact the decisions of the States Assembly to introduce time-limited housing and work statuses and specify who will be eligible to remain permanently in the Island under the revised law.

‘I expect that secondary legislation will be lodged in the autumn to achieve that.’

The new laws, which are due to be debated on 29 March, would also establish a housing and work control panel, made up of States Members, to direct population policy.

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