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.


Most employees in seafood processing in Scotland work on permanent contracts whilst a low percentage work on non-permanent/seasonal contracts, mainly via agencies in pelagic processing.

The contribution of non- UK EEA nationals to the Scottish seafood processing workforce is much higher at 58%, when compared to 42% for the whole of the UK. This was highest in mixed/white fish processing at 64%, the majority of which are found in the Grampian region. This is consistent with the findings from the Seafish report which reported that 70% of the Grampian workforce came from non- UK EEA nations. This is followed by salmon processing with 50% of the Scottish workforce coming from non- UK EEA nations.

Most processing businesses in Scotland stated that they are highly dependent on low-skilled employees, because they occupy key roles on the factory floor. They stressed that for some of these roles significant training is required and therefore they would not recognise the classification of unskilled or in some cases low-skilled labour. Highly skilled employees were considered as important for mixed/white fish processing and some facilities processing other species. As with low-skilled workers, many interviewees classified their highly skilled workers not just in respect of their qualification levels, but also their onsite training and experience of the industry. The main roles occupied by high-skilled workers were supervisors and managers.

The majority of recruitment in seafood processing is via networks (word of mouth) and local advertising. This is similar to the seafood capture industry where local networks remain important for attracting fishing crews. As cited by the capture sector, recruiting UK nationals has become more challenging over the years, which has increased the dependency on a non- UK workforce. This dependency has resulted in the surveyed seafood processing businesses voicing their concerns on finding suitable and reliable labour if, when the UK exits from the EU, there are changes to the free movement of people. This has resulted in some businesses citing the EU exit as a significant threat to their business' operational viability.


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