30% of the restaurants are going to be under threat of closure
The Ethnic Catering Alliance (ECA) who represent over 40,000 ethnic restaurants in the UK specialising in Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese and Turkish cuisine staged a major protest in London against the new migration laws and system.
Over 3,000 people attended the protest and a petition was handed to 10 Downing Street the residence of the UK Prime Minster.
The protest by restaurant owners, chefs, co-workers and consumers highlighted the fact that ethnic cooking and service required specific skills which needed chefs and workers from Asia and that workers from the EU could not be used to support their industry. Staff shortages in Indian restaurants struggling to meet demand could not be simply filled with such non-skilled staff.
The curry trade in the UK is worth over £3 billion and has grown with the declaration of the curry as the national dish of the UK. This has increased the demand for ethnic food in the UK with the need much sought-after chefs and skills from South Asia.
The ECA claims that nearly 30% of the restaurants are going to be under threat of closure due to the strict new points system and rules introduced for migrant workers. It means chefs will have to return back to their homelands, leaving a void of skills. Requirements of the new system such as good English language skills will disadvantage many South Asian and other ethnic chefs who are highly skilled in cooking and not communicate in English.
The aim of the new migration system is to ensure more skilled workers enter the UK with the right attitude and to enhance opportunities for EU workers including local people.
However, restaurant owners have had problems with EU workers already. Some owners of Indian restaurants claim that Polish and Bulgarian workers find it hard to interact and communicate with ethnic chefs causing huge problems in the kitchen and affecting service levels. Training such staff is going to take time and patience which will have an impact on current business needs and profits.
Raids have taken place by police on restaurants to trace and find staff employed illegally or without appropriate documentation. Something that the new system hopes to reduce significantly.
Opinions by UK residents on the matter vary with some supporting the move to train local people with such skills, others claiming that restaurant owners exploited cheap labour from South Asia to make high profits and some sympathising with the plight of the need for experienced and highly trained chefs.
So, will there be a time that Polish, Bulgarian and other EU workers will be able to make tandoori chicken, tarka daal or allo gobi to the taste cooked by highly skilled chefs from South Asia?
Will localised training programmes be able to support this vast industry of ethnic food in the UK? Or will this increase illegal working practices and the need for even tighter immigration and migration laws?
Restaurant owners firmly believe that the new system is going to make a huge difference to the ethnic cuisine everyone enjoys in the UK currently