"This is COVID. This is Brexit," declared David Henig, from the European Centre for Political Economy, as supply chains for delivered produce are facing challenging times.
The UK’s driver shortage has become a real crisis, as it left some supermarket shelves empty, across the country. “One of the key issues is the shortage of drivers, plus the bureaucracy of all the paperwork, getting up to speed with what legislation is required," says a grocery store manager Matt Hargreaves. He adds, "Those two things combined just totally slowed down the supply to us.”
Even if the shortage of HGV drivers is an issue that pre-dated Brexit, it became worsened by the departure of European Union workers. "Modern supply chains are really complex, they rely on a lot of moving parts, a lot of labour supplies, lorry drivers. And if one of those bits doesn't quite work or if several of them don't work, you will get shortages and that is what is happening. And it's quite possible that is going to continue for quite a while to come. This is COVID, this is Brexit."
Gary Knight is in charge of a distribution centre in south-east England. According to him, the shortage is so severe, they now have to pay extra to attract drivers to work for their company. “As much as customers don’t want to hear that their prices are going up, we’ve got to do that in order to get stuff from A to B. The wheels stop turning and subsequently the shops have no produce,” says Knight.
When Britain finally left the EU, European drivers could no longer be employed at short notice. At the same time, some drivers are now earning hundreds of pounds more every day for their shifts, as they have been offered big bonuses. This makes things even more difficult for small companies, as they are competing against giant supermarkets and simply can’t afford the same wages.
The UK Government has encouraged businesses to focus more on UK workers saying foreign labour only offered “a short term, temporary solution”.
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