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Businesses 'frustrated' as government rejects the request to loosen visa rules for lorry drivers

Posted on Monday, September 20th by

The business secretary has encouraged employers to focus more on the UK-based workforce to alleviate the supply chain crisis than to rely on foreign HGV drivers.

Multiple industries are struggling to meet customers’ demands, made even more difficult due to workforce shortages as a result of COVID, considering there is a shortfall of around 100,000 HGV drivers.

According to the transport industry, the situation is the result of both Brexit and the pandemic. Foreign drivers cannot work in the UK anymore without a visa, however, they are not classified as skilled workers so they cannot obtain one.

 Many drivers decided to return to their home countries during the pandemic and haven’t come back, and due to Covid-19 the HGV driver testing sessions have been suspended, causing a backlog of several thousand.

Nando's, McDonald's, and KFC are some of the companies that have been struggling with product shortages as a consequence in recent weeks, while Tesco, Amazon, and John Lewis are offering bonuses to drivers.

AdvertisemenLogistics UK and the British Retail Consortium wrote to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng last week, asking the government to help with the current challenges by giving temporary visas to EU drivers. In response, Mr. Kwarteng says HGV drivers are classified as skilled workers to meet visa requirements and the businesses should focus on training and recruiting British staff.

"The government recognise that the UK labour market has changed dramatically due to the economic impacts and measures necessary to tackle COVID-19, and I realise that by adding HGV drivers to the shortage occupation list, this could provide a short-term, temporary solution," Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business said.

"However, many UK-based workers now face an uncertain future and need to find new employment opportunities. I am sure you would agree on the importance of utilising the strength of our domestic workforce, and how our migration policies need to be considered alongside our strategies to ensure UK-based workers are better able to secure decent employment opportunities."

Logistics UK declared that the HGV drivers’ crisis will continue into 2022, considering the government's position. "Logistics UK is frustrated with the government's decision to reject the logistics industry's calls for temporary visas to be made available for EU HGV drivers as a short-term solution while new domestic drivers are recruited, trained, and tested," said Alex Veitch, general manager of public policy.

"While these new domestic drivers are trained and qualify into the workforce, which can take up to nine months, and DVSA works through its backlog of outstanding HGV driver tests - which we estimate could take until early 2022 - temporary visas made available for European workers would help to overcome the current supply chain problems experienced across the country.”

"The industry needs drivers now, and we have been urging the government to replicate its temporary visa scheme, introduced for agricultural workers, for logistics to keep trucks and vans moving in the short term."However, supporters of leaving the EU believe that by reducing the EU workforce would lift wages and standards for domestic workers.

Source: Sky News

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