The meat processing industry has been pummelled by staff shortages this week after hundreds of workers were pinged by the NHS Test and Trace app, with other sectors also suffering from the same issue.
Meat processing companies will be forced to shut down production entirely if the situation continues to worsen, according to a leading industry figure.
“We’re hearing reports from some members that between five and 10% of their workforce have been ‘pinged’ by the app and asked to self-isolate,” said Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, which represents companies in the industry.
“This is on top of the desperate shortage of workers that the industry is already suffering,” he added. “If the UK workforce situation deteriorates further, companies will be forced to start shutting down production lines all together.”
More than half a million people in England were pinged by the Test and Trace app in a week, the highest figure recorded.
A total of 520,194 alerts were sent to users of the NHS COVID-19 app in the week to 7 July, telling them they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus and to self-isolate.
Mr Allen said that he had been calling on the government for months to add butchers to the shortage occupation list, which allows the government to offer temporary work visas to foreign nationals who have skills that are currently needed in the UK.
This would enable the industry to temporarily fill these growing vacancies until the “current crisis has passed”, said Mr Allen.
The recent wave of notifications from the Test and Trace app instructing people to isolate has brought havoc to British companies, with carmakers the latest industry to ring the alarm in recent days.
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Rolls-Royce said it was “approaching a critical point” due to workers having to self-isolate and may have to halve production if the trend continues.
The company, owned by Germany’s BMW, said it was “extremely concerned” at the number of staff at its manufacturing site in Goodwood, West Sussex, being ordered to stay at home because of alerts from the app.
Meanwhile, Nissan’s UK plant has been affected by the same issue with more than 700 workers at the site in Sunderland reportedly self-isolating.
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