From: Mike Funnell, Wishing Tree Road, St Leonards on Sea
There’s been a lot on the news lately regarding farmers having to leave a huge percentage of their harvest – such as apples, pears, raspberries – to fall and rot through lack of seasonal workers to pick the fruit and claiming it’s because of Brexit – the labour is not coming in from Europe as it normally does.
The fruit farmers have grown to rely on working migrants over the last 20 years or so whilst over the same period of time a huge workforce of English unemployed are either overlooked or allowed to refuse to do the short term menial work.
The main reason for opting out being the fear of coming off benefits and not easily getting back on – when the work is finished – and also some think why do such hard work when they don’t have to, they will still get their benefits!
Back in the 70s when I was a student I did five summers in a row fruit picking blackcurrants, strawberries, raspberries, hops and apples mainly at Icklesham and Bodiam – I had to as it was the only way I knew to earn money in the long vacation.
The point being this is not skilled work, any reasonably fit adult can do it and we should not be relying on a foreign workforce – it’s nothing like having to recruit doctors and nurses from abroad.
Our benefits system should facilitate and encourage people to bring in the harvest without fear of messing up their unemployment payments once it’s over.
The outdoor life can also improve a person’s physical and mental wellbeing giving a sense of purpose and focus as well as the huge satisfaction of doing a day’s work for a day’s money whilst doing your bit for the community.
So come on you farmers, councillors and politicians – speak out about this absurd situation and use your power to bring about a change that encourages local unemployed people to bag those apples while bagging some self esteem.