Rathfinny Wine Estate

Harvest Labour

Labour will always be an issue in vineyards, it’s not limited to the UK but a worldwide problem.

By their inherent nature, vineyards are labour intensive. Sure there are ways to mechanise certain aspects of the vineyard year, however a lot of the work still needs to be done by hand.  Remember, for sparkling wine, all our grapes will be hand picked!

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It is a worldwide phenomenon that the manual vineyard work is done by a migrant workforce. Mexican’s cross the border to work in the US and Canada, Pacific Islanders, Asians, and Indians in Australia and New Zealand, and Southern Europe’s vineyards are full of people from the North African nations.

The UK has traditionally been similar to other Northern European wine producing nations in using predominantly Eastern European migrants. While not all vineyards have a migrant workforce, many and in particular the larger scale operations have relied heavily on the available labour pool from Romania, Poland, Lithuania, etc.

There is a reason for this ……..

An example from a labour provider in the horticultural sector is a perfect way of explaining the phenomenon:

In 2013 they (Horticulture staff agency) advertised 43 roles on the Job Centre Plus website between March and June

  • 1000 click throughs and 90 expressions of interest
  • 11 applications and 11 interviews
  • 4 no shows, 6 jobs offered and appointed, 1 not prepared to ‘commute’
  • Of the 6 appointed: 1 dismissed, 2 left the job, 3 still in posts

That’s a total of 3 people in work out of 1,000 that looked at the job, for 43 roles!

People often wonder why there are immigrants coming into the country “taking” all the jobs.  It’s because the local population of unemployed are generally unwilling to do this work, as it’s very seasonal manual work.

This is not the only issue; high areas of agricultural/horticultural/and viticultural work correspond with low Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimant counts. For us, the number of people on JSA in both Eastbourne and Brighton are dropping, and are both well below the national average, which means there just aren’t the number of people out there that will do this work.

So we need to search further afield for our seasonal labour force.

Harvest for vineyards is late September/early October, dependent on the season and lasts for four to six weeks.

So what we are looking for is good people willing to put in some graft over the harvest, in all weather conditions. Yes it will be hard, yes it will be long days, but it is rewarding, both financially and morally. We even have accommodation for 46 people and can pick you up from the local station!

Please get in touch with us if you are interested.  We really do want to try and employ a UK workforce if we can.

If you’re interested, send your details to – info@rathfinnyestate.com

Cameron Roucher – Vineyard Manager

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  • It’s great that you are trying to encourage a local workforce, but just advertising through a government system may have been the problem for the results received. I have known many people who looked for jobs (some seasonal), myself included, but they do not go through the government system to find one.

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