Prisoners to get jobs in butchers and abattoirs after staff shortages

Prisoners will be recruited by meat industry organisations  (AFP via Getty Images)
Prisoners will be recruited by meat industry organisations (AFP via Getty Images)

Butchers and other meat industry employers are set to hire prisoners and ex-inmates in a bid to ease labour shortages.

Meat industry leaders met with members of the government to discuss how businesses could work with prisons to plug the vacancies.

There are about 14,000 job vacancies in the UK meat industry, the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers said to the BBC.

This is, according to the British Meat Processors Association, about 15 per cent of the industry’s workforce.

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers said the industry faces a looming "recruitment crisis" due to Brexit and Covid.

Prisoners who are part of the Release On Temporary Licence (ROTL) programme will be the main candidates for employment.

The programme works with inmates in open prisons to help them gain work experience for an easier transition into the community when they finish their sentence.

Tony Goodger, of the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, said it would work with the Ministry of Justice and its members to get the vacancies filled.

Mr Goodger said he knew some member organisations already worked with ROTL inmates with feedback being that employees were often ”hard-working, and willing to learn".

"It’s down to the members who they employ," he said. "They [prisons] have got offenders and prison-leavers, we have got members who need labour. It seems sensible to bring the two together."

Turkey processing giant Bernard Matthews is one of the most high profile inmate employers and has formed links with HMP Norwich.

Its staff regularly visit the prison for recruitment and often offers inmates contracts to upon release.

The Covid pandemic has seen many furloughed meat workers seek new jobs elsewhere.

EU nationals have been returning to their home countries in swathes since the Brexit vote.

The industry body it was "trying absolutely every avenue" to recruit workers.

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