The founders of Oklava, the two-site Turkish restaurant, bakery, and wine bar found in Shoreditch and Fitzrovia respectively, have responded to the government’s pledge to overhaul to the U.K. immigration system. Like many others in the industry, Selin Kiazim and Laura Christie have objected to the points-based proposal’s classification of restaurant and bar work as “low-skilled.” The duo has therefore set up a petition calling on the revocation of Home Secretary Priti Patel’s categorisation of “unskilled” hospitality workers in service of an industry to which they say they have devoted their lives.
This lunchtime, Kiazim and Christie wrote to Patel personally on Instagram:
“Dear Priti Patel, we are your ‘low-skilled’ workers. We bake your bread, we cook your dinner, we serve your wine. We are from the UK, Europe and beyond. We have chosen this as our career, and we are worth more than just a random number of points. We love this industry, and fear your new plans will be the end of hospitality as we know it.”
A spokesperson for Oklava cited data collected by hospitality software provider Fourth, which finds that if the new immigration laws come into effect, the restaurant sector will be the “hardest hit.”
Under the government’s plans, the effect on the restaurant and hospitality industry would be manifold: As well as ending free movement from the EU, the government will end the automatic rights of workers, which are not conditioned on any skills or salary level, from European Economic Area.
In addition, visas will be granted to applicants who score a certain number of points. Those points are awarded for speaking English, being in receipt of a “skilled job” job offer with an “approved sponsor,” and specific, often academic qualifications.
The issue for the industry in this case, and for its professional status, perennially, is that — insofar as the government’s salary equation has decided — the majority of its jobs are “unskilled.” A change in the salary band which defines skilled would see it lowered from from £30,000 to £25,600.
Lastly, the government has said exceptions will be made for applicants to “specific shortage occupations.” The hospitality sector is not included in this category.
As was predicted, the London restaurant industry — existentially dependent as it is on workers from a broad range of skillsets — is not got to take this lying down.