Indian restaurants in staff crisis after migrant quota cuts

11 February 2005 by
Indian restaurants in staff crisis after migrant quota cuts

Curry houses across the UK are facing closure due to a staffing crisis.

The Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs said a significant number of its 2,500 members were looking to "sell up or face closure" due to a shortfall of 7,000 unskilled workers.

One member, Syedhur Rahman Ranu, who owns six restaurants in the Home Counties, said: "If I don't sell my businesses, I will be forced to close, because I can't fill the vacancies."

The guild is petitioning the Government for greater leniency for Bengali immigrants during its current review of the Sectors Based Scheme (SBS). The scheme allows foreign workers to take up hard-to-fill unskilled posts within the hospitality and food manufacturing industries.

Chairman of the guild Enam Ali said: "Brits are unwilling to work as kitchen porters or waiters, especially outside the big cities."

Under the present scheme, Bangladesh is entitled to the same percentage of hospitality permits as other non-EU countries, despite the fact that Britain's 9,500 Indian restaurants and take-aways rely heavily on a Bangladeshi workforce.

The overall SBS quota was reduced from 20,000 to 15,000 last year, rendering the system incapable of meeting the Indian restaurant trade's staff needs.

"Most SBS permit holders will have to return to their own countries over the next three months when their visas expire, sparking a crisis within the industry," said Ali.

"We would like to see the rules changed to allow those who do come here to remain for three years rather than 12 months."

Hospitality consultant Jeremy Symons said: "Bangladeshi restaurateurs would be prepared to guarantee the migrants would return home within the time period by providing a financial bond."

British Hospitality Association deputy chief executive Martin Couchman added: "Many restaurateurs are struggling, because those that went home for a two-month period when their visa expired are finding it difficult to come back since the quota was changed."

The Government is due to release a report on the SBS shortly.

Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 10 February 2005

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