The North East of Scotland Fisheries Development Partnership (NESFDP) is seeking an urgent meeting with members of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) that recently increased the salary threshold for skilled worker visas and is currently reviewing the Shortage Occupation List for migrant workers.

The decision follows a meeting of the NESFDP last week with Defra officials to highlight the labour problems the catching and processing sectors in the region are facing, and their need to be able to employ migrant workers.

NESFDP chair Ann Bell told Fishing News after the meeting: “The NESFDP chair and vice chairs are to seek an urgent meeting with the members of the MAC, and will invite them to the North East to hear at first hand the situation of the seafood sectors there, and to help them understand the consequences of their advice.

“We want the MAC to come up here. They need to see the consequences of their decisions. The situation may look one way to them in London, but if you are in a fish factory and see what’s actually going on, it looks different. “I’m happy to go and see them, but I want them up here – at the coalface, as it were. We want an urgent meeting before they complete their review of the Shortage Occupation List.”

She said the meeting with Defra officials was ‘constructive’ and that ‘we made our points’. The partnership was drafting a letter to the MAC that would be copied to all the political parties so that the issues could be included in their election manifestos.

“The NESFDP is a strong partnership with a lot of industry interests involved who are supportive of what we’re doing. Our letter won’t be sent until it’s been seen by all the partners to ensure there is consensus across the industry,” said Ann Bell.

The partnership recently wrote to a wide range of politicians and officials to highlight the acute shortage of labour in the region on fishing vessels and in processing plants. They said the forthcoming increase in the salary threshold for skilled worker visas will ‘shut down’ recruitment of overseas workers.

In a shock announcement in December, the Home Office said that the earnings threshold for foreign crew and workers entering the UK on skilled worker visas would rise by around 50%, from the current £26,200 to £38,700, in spring 2024.

Industry leaders said this would prohibit the employment of foreign crews in many sectors. But just before Christmas, the Home Office announced that the increases will instead be phased in, with the minimum level rising to £29,000 in spring, followed by two further increases.

The changes to the scheme also include a replacement of the Shortage Occupation List, in which fishermen are included, to a new Immigration Salary List which aims to reduce the number of occupations eligible for skilled worker visas.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.50 here

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