Scotland's seafood processing sector: employment patterns

Employment patterns of non-United Kingdom (UK) European Economic Area (EEA) workers in Scotland's seafood processing sector.

Executive Summary

This report presents key findings from a small sample survey of Scotland-based seafood processing businesses to understand employment patterns of non-United Kingdom ( UK) European Economic Area ( EEA) workers in the sector. It follows up on an earlier study conducted by Seafish [1] for Marine Scotland and Defra to estimate dependency on non- UK EEA workers in the seafood processing sector. Data were collected from 18 seafood processing businesses, with 37% of the sector's workforce in Scotland to understand:

  • employment patterns - nationality and permanent versus temporary workers;
  • dependency on non- UK EEA and non- EEA labour;
  • skills of non- UK workers in Scotland's seafood processing sector;
  • recruitment practices; and,
  • potential business impacts from the UK's exit from the EU.

The survey found that 41% of people working in the surveyed processors in 2016 were from the UK, 58% were from other EEA counties and 1% were from non- EEA countries. Of the employees from other EEA countries, Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian nationals were the most cited.

The majority of staff (86%) were on permanent contracts and the minority (14%) were on non-permanent contracts - 12% employed via agencies working seasonally and 2% employed directly with the processing facility and working mainly during high volume periods such as the festive season.

The data suggest that mixed seafood processing businesses have a higher dependency on EEA workers. 64% of the permanent workforce and 100% of agency staff of mixed processors were non- UK EEA nationals. This is followed by salmon processing with 50% of permanent and 63% of agency employees comprising non- UK EEA nationals. Pelagic processors were most dependent on non- UK EEA agency staff, who make up 100% of the non-permanent work force, and account for 43% of the total workforce.

All sectors reported dependency on low-skilled non- UK EEA workers. All pelagic businesses in the sample reported high dependency. 75% of shellfish processors, 67% of salmon processors and 50% of mixed processors in the sample reported high dependency. Most low-skilled non- UK employees worked as factory operatives, filleters and drivers.

Mixed processors reported a dependency on high-skilled non- UK EEA labour, with 50% of businesses reporting a high dependency and 33% a medium dependency. Only 33% of the pelagic and salmon processors in the sample said they were highly dependent on high-skilled labour. Most high-skilled non- UK workers were managers, supervisors, engineers and quality control. Most EEA workers were recruited by local networks; either by word of mouth (33%) or local advertising (33%).

Businesses identified a range of impacts on the UK's exit from the EU on the seafood processing labour market. This ranged from no impact as some were not dependent on non- UK EEA workers, medium impacts due to a drop in the quality of the workforce, to significant changes in the way the businesses operate and in some cases a direct threat to business' survival.


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