© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Trucks seen in a heavy vehicle parking lot, at Cobham Services on the M25 motorway, Cobham, Great Britain, Aug. 31, 2021. REUTERS / Peter Cziborra / File Photo
By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s decision to issue temporary visas for 5,000 foreign truckers is a short-term solution that will not solve a severe labor shortage that risks major disruption for retailers in the run-up to Christmas, business leaders warned.
Long lines of vehicles formed at gas stations for a second day on Saturday as motorists waited in line, some for hours, to refuel after oil companies reported a lack of drivers was causing transportation problems since the refineries to the esplanades, leading some operators to rations of supplies and others to close gas stations. [L1N2QR05A]
The fuel supply problems are due to warnings from the retail industry that unless the driver shortage is addressed, there will be major problems ahead of the busy holiday shopping period.
“After a very difficult 18 months, I know how important this Christmas is to all of us and that is why we are taking these steps as soon as possible to ensure that preparations remain on track,” said Transportation Minister Grant Shapps. , it’s a statement.
The UK’s Road Transport Association (RHA) says Britain is facing a shortage of about 100,000 drivers, as a result of the exit of workers from the industry, Brexit and the pandemic, which halted training and testing. drivers for about a year.
According to government plans, 5,000 heavy vehicle (HGV) drivers could come to Britain on temporary visas, while another 5,500 visas would be issued to poultry workers “to avoid possible additional pressure on the food industry.”
These short-term visas, which the government had previously refused to introduce despite calls from retail and logistics companies, will expire on December 24.
In addition, up to 4,000 people will be trained as new truck drivers, letters will be sent to nearly a million drivers with heavy vehicle licenses to attract them back to the industry, and Ministry of Defense examiners will be drafted to speed up the process. test. .
The government said that visas were not a long-term solution and that the long-term solution was to hire more British drivers with better pay and conditions.
“We are acting now, but industries must also play their part so that working conditions continue to improve and deserved wage increases continue to be maintained so that companies retain new drivers,” said Shapps.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, who warned on Friday that the government had just 10 days to solve the driver shortage problem, said the plans were insufficient.
“The 5,000 visa limit will do little to alleviate the current deficit,” he said. “Supermarkets alone have estimated that they need at least 15,000 heavy vehicle drivers for their businesses to be able to operate at full capacity before Christmas and avoid disruptions or availability problems.”
Others have warned that European drivers may not want to go back to work in Britain anyway.
“I hope that many drivers will not return to the UK even if the UK government allows them to,” Marco Digioia, secretary general of the European Road Transport Association, told i newspaper.