Growers hope word of mouth will boost number of migrant workers

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Only about 20 of the 75 who came to work in the potato and daffodil-growing sector this year remain. However, the industry hopes the positive experiences of Romanians who still work here will encourage more of their countrymen to come in the future.

The Jersey Royal Company, the Island’s biggest potato grower and agricultural employer, has more than 100 Romanians in its workforce and it needs to increase that number to fill jobs previously taken by Poles.

William Church, the organisation’s marketing director, said that like all farmers in the Island, the UK and Europe, finding seasonal workers was an increasing problem.

He said: ‘Word of mouth is the best method of recruitment when existing workers recommend us to other family members and friends. Aside from that, we advertise in different countries and then travel there to conduct interviews.’

Fewer Polish people want to work away from home because the country’s economy has improved, leading to higher employment and wages.

Mr Church added that the Jersey Royal Company had a human resources strategy to encourage workers to return year after year.

He said: ‘We maintain regular contact with all staff members to explain to them what is happening, such as when there are rainy days and less work.

‘We reassure everyone that the work is still [there] to be done.’

The Romanians that failed to gel with life on a local farm were recruited by the Jersey Farmers’ Union through an agency in Romania.

The Island needs to find about 1,000 people each year just to work on the Jersey Royal potato crop – the Island’s biggest agricultural export crop.

Union president Peter Le Maistre also believes ‘word of mouth’ is the best way to attract essential farm workers to Jersey, especially as this year overall employment levels are ten per cent down.

He said: ‘We still cannot understand why the Romanians went home. They said they didn’t really enjoy the weather and that they did not like their accommodation. As they were being put up in a hotel, I find that a little unbelievable.’

Faced with an ever-shrinking labour market, the JFU wants the States to relax the Island’s immigration laws to allow farmers to source labour from Africa or Ukraine. They are currently in discussions with Home Affairs.

Mr Le Maistre said he hoped their case would be strengthened by UK farmers who were lobbying the British Government to relax immigration laws to allow them to source labour from outside the EU.

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