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Should fish farmers count as “key workers”?

23 March 2020, at 5:46pm

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) is seeking clarification on which employees are to be classified as “key workers” at a time when people in these roles are being provided with childcare during the coronavirus crisis.

Advice by the UK government defines key workers as including those involved in the production, delivery and sale of food.

However, in Scotland, no such advice has been issued and it is being left to the country's 32 local authorities to make a case by case decision on individual businesses and groups of workers.

SSPO argues that Scotland's fish farmers should be able to qualify for free childcare during the Covid-19 pandemic
SSPO argues that Scotland's fish farmers should be able to qualify for free childcare during the Covid-19 pandemic

At a time when schools have been closed indefinitely, key workers such as frontline medical staff are being allowed to send their children to school, so they can continue their vital work during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Some councils have designated all those involved in food production as key workers while, in other local authorities, the designations are different.

Alongside other food organisations, the SSPO is trying to ensure that workers involved with the production, distribution and supply of farmed salmon are confirmed as Category 2 key workers.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, CEO of SSPO said: “Public health is the top priority currently and salmon farmers are working to keep those who work in the sector safe while caring for our livestock. But we also recognise the importance of keeping fresh food supplies such as Scottish salmon available to households throughout this crisis.

“That is why the SSPO is working with other food and drink bodies, with local authorities and the Scottish Government to try to ensure a consistent, Scottish-wide approach to this issue of ‘key workers’ to help keep essential fresh food being supplied”.

“Our members are working hard to reduce staffing levels to the lowest possible number required to maintain the production of essential goods. Many local authorities are still working on and reviewing their lists of key workers and we urge them, to help keep fresh food supplies available, to recognise the importance of those who work in essential fish farming roles.

“We will remain regular dialogue with councils and the Scottish Government.”