The government’s emergency program to issue temporary visas to thousands of lorry drivers is too small to solve Britain’s supply-chain crisis and is unlikely to attract them to the UK, leaders warn of hauling.
Downing Street on Saturday night confirmed it had immediately put together plans to add 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers to a visa scheme until Christmas, to help the food and fuel industries that there is a shortage.
However, even though the plans have been formally announced, Marco Digioia, the head of the European Road Haulers Association which represents more than 200,000 trucking companies across the continent, said in Observer which is “more necessary” than a temporary relaxation of immigration policies. “There is a shortage of driving across Europe,” he said. “I’m not sure how many want to go to the UK.”
Andrew Opie, from the British Retail Consortium, said the 5,000 limit was “little can be done to alleviate the current shortfall”.
Criticisms emerged as the supply-chain crisis spread:
Ambulance and care workers were affected by queues for fuel, following reports that some forecourts did not receive the expected delivery of fuel.
There are warnings that up to one in five deliveries may not reach major supermarket chains on time or at all.
The poll suggested that a majority of voters, including 52% of Leave voters, believe Brexit is partly to blame for the crisis.
Digioia said European driving salaries were generally higher than Britain’s; new EU rules have improved working conditions; and billions of euros were offered to fund parking areas and support companies.
“The UK doesn’t have access to any of that,” he said. “It’s tempting for European drivers to go back to the UK when they also have to face the reality of customs and border adjustments, all the uncertainties in Brexit … We need to be realistic.”
Higher wages, and perhaps tax incentives, could help in the short term, he said, but “a lot of money has been thrown at this whole problem in Europe today. There is a field at the level of play, and nothing to bother associated with Brexit ”.
The government said on Saturday night that it plans to train up to 4,000 people as HGV drivers, with the help of military inspectors to expedite the process; and letters are sent to retired drivers only in an attempt to coax them back to work.
Senior industry figures said there would be a battle between British companies to hire drivers, with companies less than able to pay finding themselves short of workers. Sources said major companies are already under threat.
There were also warnings on Saturday night that the impending shortage of short -term workers needed to cope with the fall demand for food pickers and packers would intensify the crisis.
Two -thirds (67%) of voters believe the government has handled the crisis well, according to a new Opinium poll for Observer. Even the majority of Conservative voters (59%) thought the government had responded badly. The majority (68%) said Brexit was partly to blame, with 88% of stay voters and 52% of Leave voters.
As well as the lack of delivery in supermarkets, the extreme difficulties faced by the hospitality sector are expected to expand.
Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said there may have been up to four million people available to companies at the beginning of last year but no longer in the potential workforce. He warned of another pinch point in just a few weeks, when agency staff would be needed to deal with the fall and Christmas peak demand.
“I’m really sure that when we get to the end of September and when we start looking at the important role of agency workers in the Christmas rush, there isn’t enough available,” he said.
“The government needs to come up with a quick resolution on the lorry drivers. The question was, if you call them, will they come?
“I think the only way we can know that is by doing it. But you end up in what’s an obvious contest about which industry, which company, who can pay more. One in five. orders for hospitality from suppliers don’t produce. My guess is that some of the supermarkets are in a comparable position which is why there are shortages on the shelves, “Wright said.
There were also reports of ambulances and hospital staff being affected by fuel queues, after some fuel vendors said fuel deliveries could not reach some forecourts. The South Central Ambulance Trust said that on Friday, its personnel “joined the queue with others to refuel which on some occasions took time”.
Matt McDonnell, Medicare EMS chief executive, which has a fleet of ambulances, said many personnel struggled to get fuel on Saturday. “This morning, we had a crew driving around for more than an hour,” he said. “They found a garage with a sign up that says ‘access to emergency vehicles only’. But our staff was given 30 liters of fuel.”
A staff member on an emergency shift in eastern England on Friday posted an angry message on Facebook. Jennifer Ward wrote: “Imagine you have to go to 5 different gas stations to get diesel for your AMBULANCE.” There were also reports that workers at a care firm in Kent were unable to reach people’s homes due to lack of fuel. There are serious warnings about the impact of higher prices, rising energy charges and the incoming reduction in overall low -wage credit. A typical low -income family with children could see their income fall by more than £ 20 a week over the next six months as a result of a “triple whammy”, according to the Resolution Foundation think tank .