Call for lorry driver visas to ease supply crisis
Supermarkets have been struggling for some supplies
Businesses are urging the UK government to add lorry drivers to the list of “essential” workers to help ease the shortage of supplies reaching UK supermarkets and factories.
Haulage and retail industry leaders say there is a shortfall of 90,000 to 100,000 drivers and they are calling on the Government to take urgent action amid fears that crucial Christmas deliveries will be disrupted.
They want HGV drivers from the EU to be given visas and allowed into the country to help ease the crisis.
The Office for National Statistics said yesterday that 27% of food services and accommodation firms have reported lower than normal stock levels – the worst-hit of all the sectors.
The managing director of Iceland, Richard Walker, said it is “criminal” that drivers are not eligible for these visas, yet they are available to visiting ballerinas and concert pianists.
He said: “Things like bread and other fast moving lines are being cancelled in about 100 stores per day, soft drinks are 50% less in terms of volume.”
The shortages are largely the result of thousands of drivers leaving the UK after Brexit, followed by restrictions caused by the coronavirus. Adding to the problem was the cancellation of 40,000 HGV driver tests during lockdown.
Fast food and restaurant chains including Greggs, McDonald’s, Nando’s, KFC, Beefeater and Subway have warned customers about shortages of key ingredients and products.
The crisis has spread to the building trades with more than one in seven construction firms unable to get essential materials.
Nearly one in five manufacturing firms have been forced to change suppliers or find alternative ways to get materials, goods or services.
Deidre Brock MP, the SNP’s Westminster spokesperson on food, has joined the call for the UK government to add HGV drivers to the UK Shortage Occupation List.
Prior to the pandemic, UK road transport businesses employed approximately 600,000 HGV drivers – 60,000 of whom were EU nationals.
“Along with the harsh migration rules imposed by Boris Johnson and company, and their refusal to bring in a Real Living Wage, tens of thousands of EU nationals have left the UK to return to their native country and pursue other careers, leaving businesses with major supply and demand issues.” said Ms Brock.
“The UK government must take action immediately to grant this vital sector access to the global labour market by adding HGV drivers to the UK Shortage Occupation List, to allow companies across to access the workforce they need to continue operating.”
Action call to solve recruitment crisis
A group of food and drink industry and other agencies are calling on both the UK and Scottish governments to tackle the shortage of labour.
FDF Scotland and its industry partners in the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership said 93% of businesses surveyed currently had job vacancies, 90% of them described their job vacancies as hard to fill, and 97% of them felt that they would struggle to fill vacancies.
The call for action is made jointly by FDF Scotland, Scotland Food & Drink, NFUS, Scottish Bakers, Opportunity North East, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, Scottish Seafood Alliance, and the Scottish Wholesale Association.
The call on the UK Government is to:
- Introduce a 12 month covid recovery visa for the food and drink supply chain – to deal with immediate pressures on the industry and allow employers to expand recruitment to EU and other overseas workers
- Commission an urgent review by the Migration Advisory Committee of the needs of the food and drink sector
- Waive the fees to employment visas for the food and drink supply chain until 2022
They are advising the Scottish Government to:
- Ensure support for automation is embedded in Scottish Government funding programmes where it supports productivity and the development of higher quality jobs
- Work with the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership to continue to promote the industry as a great career destination, and to provide opportunities through apprenticeships and other schemes
“These are unprecedented and turbulent times and, until stability returns for businesses, we would ask the UK and Scottish Governments to support the industry and implement these measures,” they say.
“Without these, we strongly believe the current supply chain disruption will only worsen as we enter the peak trading period in the run-up to Christmas.”