Agricultural workers who have come to the UK for seasonal work are being given the COVID-19 vaccine for free.
NHS staff are being instructed to go out to farms to administer the vaccine to all the workers. It has raised eyebrows among some UK residents who are still waiting for their jab.
The workers have been flown in by private land owners from places such as Eastern Europe and Barbados to help with the seasonal harvest. They comprise mainly of young men between 18-30.
There are a number of issues which makes this a divisive subject. Supporters of the jabs say that these people are legal workers who are brought into the UK for work purposes and therefore should be protected like other workers. Not only that but it protects the UK citizens that they are working alongside.
Opponents say that these people have not contributed to the NHS running costs and should not be given free vaccines, at our expense. Some are only in the UK for a few months, although others can be here for up to months, yet they are able to get double doses of the vaccine before returning to their homeland. They say that the farmers should be asked to make a payment for each vaccine, as they are the employers who are bringing the workers into the country.
This scheme will allow growers to employ seasonal workers at key times to pick a wide variety of fresh produce on British farms
Other people are annoyed that overseas workers are getting the vaccine before our own children. The government has so far issued vaccines to 18 year olds and above, but still have plans to vaccinate children over 12. They are asking why are overseas workers being treated ahead of our own children?
Farmers argue that COVID has already brought about a number of complications, such as providing testing every 3-4 days. They say their costs are already high and the workers have to quarantine on their arrival before they can begin working. They claim there is not the resources or experience available in the UK so they have to search for workers abroad.
It has been reported that the government has allowed farmers to bring in 30,000 seasonal workers from overseas in 2021 – three times more than last year – to help pick and pack fruit and vegetables.
The extension of the seasonal agricultural workers’ scheme, which applies to EU and non-EU workers after the end of freedom of movement from Europe in January, comes after a difficult 2020 during which farmers feared fruit and vegetables would rot in the fields as they struggled to attract enough workers.