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Wages issue key in stable staff crisis

04 August 2015

Long-term efforts to attract,recruit and retain the workforce needed for a planned expansion of the racehorse population have been boosted by a £1 million Racing Foundation grant, to be used for careers marketing and advice, and training and development programmes for stable staff and jockeys.However, with at least 500 vacancies estimated, partly due to a clampdown on the use of non-EU workers, one long-serving lad said the only way to deal with  the issue was for trainers “to start putting their hands in their pockets”.

John, who works in a yard in the south of England and contacted t he Racing Post yesterday, has spent 28 years in the industry but claimed he was no better off now than two decades ago. “I'm still on virtually the same money now as I was 15 to 20 years ago,” he said.“In the nineties I was on £300 a week with a room. Twenty years down the line I'm on £320 a week with a room, and that’s probably one of the best-paid jobs in racing.“In Newmarket now with a top trainer you’ll get £330 a week but out of that you have to pay £100 rent, then tax and insurance comes off. Lads just can’t make a living out of it.”The extent of the crisis was highlighted in a Racing Post special report last month in which top trainers confessed they were struggling to recruit staff.John added: “All the trainers are desperate for staff when for the last ten years they've had foreign labour, and I can guarantee a lot were not paying them the full national minimum wage.“I'm in my forties and a lot of lads my age have left racing. 

If you lived Marlborough way lads went to work at Honda in Swindon, if you lived in Newmarket or Lambourn a lot went to work as horse box drivers because trainers aren't paying enough money.”National Association of Stable Staff chief executive George McGrath said: “You can spend as much money as you like recruiting but until we address some of the fund a mental aspects creating the staffing crisis it doesn't matter how much you have to spend.“ We do need to be more proactive in recruiting, but the job itself has to move with modern society and in today’s modern society young people will not tolerate having just two clear days off in an entire month.

“Unless they can address the financial aspects in racing it’s always going to be a relatively poorly paid role despite being one that’s highly skilled and time- consuming.“Highly skilled should mean highly paid and should come with the requisite amount of time off as well, but in racing it’s the other way round. The more skilled you are, the better the rider you are, you’re going to be on more difficult horses and when it comes to booking a day off the employer will say, ‘I don’t have anyone to ride them to your level of ability so do you really have to have a day off?’ It’s catch-22.”

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