The Metro - Sarah Duke 'Brits won’t do the jobs Europeans do. Banning them will destroy our businesses'.

Leave voter, and Director of Recruitment firm Opus Loco, Sarah Duke, explains the impact that she's already seeing from Brexit talks and why she changed her mind.

Sarah DukeDirector of recruitment firm, Opus Loco

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Sarah DukeDirector of recruitment firm, Opus Loco

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I have been in recruitment for 20 years and only once has it been as difficult to recruit low-skilled workers as it is now – and that was in 2006 before the freedom of movement of EU workers.

Back then it was a nightmare trying to recruit good reliable staff that would show up for work, and we are seeing the same today.

This is why I am dismayed at Theresa May’s announcement that she would be effectively closing the borders to EU workers. In 2017 I participated in a TV programme titled British Workers Wanted for Channel 4, which concentrated on Brexit and its implications on employment for my recruitment agency, Opus Loco.

In the programme you see that it was a real struggle for us to find British workers for our positions.

We were not recruiting for skilled labour, we were looking for kitchen porters, hospitality staff, trainee landscapers and warehouse workers. The prerequisite was that you wanted to work. Other than that, we would teach you all the skills.

We struggled to get the numbers required and if you watched the programme you would have seen the excuses Brits gave us as to why they couldn’t work these jobs.

We did get one British candidate, James, who rather than being the norm was the exception.

This experience taught me how desperately the UK relies on EU migrant workers.

I was one of the many that voted Leave. In hindsight, do I believe I made the right decision? Probably not. Do I feel I was misinformed? Most definitely. Was I aware of the long-term implications for my business? Most definitely not.

Am I confident that once Brexit happens politicians will have done the best deal for all concerned and help more Brits into work – bearing in mind unemployment is the lowest it has been for decades? Are there Brits who even want to do the roles I recruit for? I’m doubtful on both counts.

We’ve all witnessed the politicians hash out plans, which to me appear to be cobbled together with no clear direction, and lacking information about how leaving the EU is going to affect businesses and individuals.

This is unacceptable, especially considering that 70% of tax-paying businesses are made up of small to medium-size enterprises such as mine.

Since the programme aired, recruiting for these roles among Brits and EU nationals hasn’t got any easier – in fact the situation has grown gravely worse.

We’ve scoured the whole of the south from Bristol to Bognor Regis and I presently have more than 30 full-time vacancies that I need to fill, with little to no hope of doing so.

I run job adverts, advertise in the press and even write an article every week for the local rag to generate interest, but it has proved fruitless. I’m genuinely worried for the future – and for my business.

I remember the pre-2006 recruitment nightmare, when people would take the job and by some strange stroke of bad luck would always have a car accident, break a leg, and/or lose a relative on the day they were due to start – never before and certainly not the day after.

When the borders opened, it completely revolutionised finding people for work. Particularly in the unskilled labour market, warehouse work, manual labour and so on.

All of a sudden there were pools of people available to do the jobs that other British workers had never wanted to do.

These people were not taking jobs from the British, they were doing work the Brits never wanted to do.

Fast-forward to this week and Theresa May, who has never run a company but now leads our country into what can only be described as a national disaster, thinks she knows how to address this.

I can understand all the people who voted Brexit citing that they want our country back under our control. But the prime minister vowed last night to end EU free movement, to give no preference to European workers, and just insisted that us businesses try to hire Brits. It’s clearly not an informed position.

Businesses like mine have been trying to do that for years. If we had been able to, then there would have been no need for European labour in the first place.

However, what has been shown over the last 12 years is that there is a real direct need for free movement in order to staff our businesses.

My clients in their warehouses, packing houses and cafes will be the hardest hit. This decision will be detrimental to businesses who pay taxes that contribute to our community. Close the borders and be prepared for businesses to close too.


The original article can be found here -