Looking after workers’ welfare

Posted 04/11/15
Happy workers make for happy growers, a sentence that certainly rings true with AG Recruitment who I met at the National Fruit Show.

AG Recruitment was established two years ago by Douglas Amesz and his wife Estera after the couple became frustrated by how migrant workers were being outsourced. With 15 years experience in soft and top fruit, and a strong understanding of how the industry works, they saw an opportunity to improve the system to benefit both the grower and the worker.

“Our business came from a passion for the industry and a frustration with how recruitment was being done” said Douglas. “Growers work extremely hard for wafer thin margins so we couldn’t understand why labour providers weren’t taking steps that are in the best interests of everyone involved.”

AG Recruitment works on the same basis as other agencies by sourcing workers and placing them with an employer who then takes responsibility for their housing, accommodation and payroll. But that’s where the similarities end.

AG have three offices: one in Kent, one in Romania and a third in Bulgaria and do not outsource workers. This ensures that they have complete control and communication is not lost.

“We make sure our workers really understand what they are getting themselves into and give them the basic skills and knowledge to prepare for leaving, which makes slotting into a new environment a lot easier and reaching top productivity as soon as possible.”

Douglas’ team ensure that by the time a worker reaches a farm, they have had at least six hours contact time with interviewers, who will assess their personality, attitude, motivation and determination in an environment that reflects the one they will be working in.

“Agencies generally spend very little time with these workers and then send them off to work in a foreign country, but everyone that comes through our office has a two hour interview and then half a day training. We’re trying to assess people’s internal values which is extremely difficult in those few hours so how people are doing it in 10 or 15 minutes I don’t know.”

Only about 45% of applicants will be offered a job in the UK through AG, highlighting the tough recruitment process and the quality of staff being selected.

With a change in the demographics of migrant workers, moving away from the cities to rural areas, the welfare of workers is a big part of AG’s role. The ethos of building strong relationships with their workers aims to regain trust lost through agencies, which has become an increasing problem in Eastern Europe and subsequently for UK growers.

“These people are travelling to a foreign country without any confidence. There’s a lot of mistrust and we are seeing evidence of that. We spend as much time as we possibly can inspiring trust and generally giving a professional and responsible service.” Next month I will be travelling to Romania with AG Recruitment to learn more about how they recruit their seasonal workers.


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