Northern Ireland’s hospitality industry will be destroyed by the Home Office’s proposed skills criteria and salary threshold for overseas workers, according to Hospitality Ulster.
Colin Neill, Hospitality Ulster's CEO, said the move will ‘simply decimate’ the hospitality sector, and damage the tourism industry here.
The comments come as the Government announced plans to overhaul immigration rules with a new points-based system to come into force at the start of 2021.
Those classified as "unskilled" and those earning below £25,600 will no longer be allowed to work in the UK under the new proposals.
Commenting on the skills criteria Colin Neill said: “Employees with soft skills (classified as ‘unskilled’) are a vital element of the success of the Northern Ireland hospitality and tourism offer, however, they have been ignored.”
The hospitality industry here has over 30,000 job vacancies to fill by 2024 and needs 2,000 chefs according to the industry expert.
He said: “Northern Ireland is unique as the only part of the UK with a land border with the EU, and a labour market more distinct from the rest of the UK."
Northern Ireland's wages are relatively low compared to the rest of the UK.
Mr Neill believes Northern Ireland will be ‘cut adrift’ by the proposals and has called for the First and deputy First Minister to intervene.
He said: “With a declining birth rate and near full employment in Northern Ireland, these proposals will damage our economy and limit plans to grow the tourism economy to a £2bn industry.”
Amnesty International's Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan said the UK points-based system ignores the contribution and rights of migrants.
The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also expressed misgivings.
Head of policy Christopher Morrow said: "Unfortunately with this policy, only some sectors will be able to cope, and others such as hospitality, tourism and healthcare will struggle due to shortages of staff and full employment here.”