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Sat, 16 January 2021

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Environment Secretary urges furloughed Brits to ‘play their part’ in fruit-picking - as website crashes

Environment Secretary urges furloughed Brits to ‘play their part’ in fruit-picking - as website crashes

George Eustice urged Brits to sign up to help.

3 min read

The Environment Secretary has issued a fresh plea for furloughed workers to “play their part” by filling foreign labour shortages as Britain’s harvest season approaches.

George Eustice told the daily Downing Street press conference that the UK will “need to rely on British workers to lend a hand to help bring that harvest home” amid estimates that just a third of the overseas help needed would be able to travel here.

But there was embarrassment for the Government as the website aiming to match up Brits with job opportunities in the country’s fields appeared to go down as Mr Eustice spoke.

PoliticsHome reported in March on fears that crops could be “left to rot” in fields as coronavirus travel restrictions prompt a shortage of seasonal workers.

But, while the Government has been working with industry to try to drum up applications, some firms have already resorted to chartering jets to bring in workers from outside the country ahead of a busy June.

Mr Eustice said on Tuesday: “Every year, large numbers of people come from countries such as Romania and Bulgaria to take part in the harvest, harvesting crops such as strawberries and salads and vegetables. 

“We estimate that probably only about a third of the people that would normally come are already here and small numbers may continue to travel. 

“But one thing is clear, and that is that this year we will need to rely on British workers to lend a hand to help bring that harvest home. 

He added: “Over the last couple of months, we have been working with industry on a plan to support and help people taking second jobs, particularly those who are furloughed. 

“And we have launched a new ‘Pick for Britain’ website that enables people to go online, check what job issues there are, what job availability there is and to marry up job opportunities from growers and employers with those people seeking a second job, particularly those who are furloughed. 

“And we believe those who are furloughed, maybe getting to the point that they want to lend a hand and play their part, they maybe wanted to get out and they may be wanting to supplement their income with an additional job. 

“And those, if they do feel that way, I would urge them to visit that website and to look at the opportunities that are there.”

However, the website promoted by the Environment Secretary appeared to have been hit by a technical glitch as he issued the plea, with the page still unable to be seen at the time of publication.

Visitors were instead greeted with a white page and a message reading: ‘The service is unavailable’.

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