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Business leaders have warned that the British government’s plan to issue 10,500 temporary visas to lorry drivers and agricultural workers will not go far enough to address the labor crisis.
The Department of Transportation on Saturday night announced a package of measures designed to address the massive shortage of lorry drivers caused by the Brexit and Covid epidemics.
But business leaders called on ministers to relax more sanctions to prevent chaos before Christmas.
Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the British Chamber of Commerce, likened the announcement to “throwing a drop of water into a bonfire.”
“Some steps have been taken now, but additional testing will take time and the number of visas issued will be less.”
“Even if these short-term opportunities attract the largest number of people under the scheme, it will not be enough to solve the problem that has arisen in our supply chain.”
Lack of drivers has led to gaps in the shelves of several supermarkets and long queues for fuel at petrol stations.
On Saturday, BP, one of the largest filling station operators, estimated that it was between 10 and 15 percent. 1,200 stations across the UK One or more grades of fuel ran out, a small number of which were off.
In its announcement on Saturday night, the DFT said 5,000 HGV drivers would be linked to an existing visa scheme by December 2 to help the food and fuel industry with driver shortages in the current “exceptional situation”.
An additional 5,500 visas will also be provided for poultry workers to avoid further pressure on the food industry.
The announcement marks a major U-turn for ministers who have repeatedly said over the weeks that they do not want to relax Britain’s post-Brexit immigration laws.
The government has argued that the long-term solution to the crisis lies in training UK-based drivers rather than relying on workers on the continent, many of whom returned to the country after Britain left the EU.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson instructed ministers to take swift action to address the growing crisis and end the “pump panic” headlines.
The government insisted that additional visas would not be a long-term solution to the crisis. “Reform within the industry is essential,” he said in a statement. “That’s why the government has continued to help the industry solve this problem through improved testing and recruitment, including improved pay, working conditions and diversity.”
The transport industry has warned a More than 90,000 holiers lack skills Lack of EU staff and long breaks in training of new British drivers during the epidemic.
Andrew Opi, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, warned that the number of new visas was not enough for foreign HGV drivers.
“The 5,000 visa limit will do very little to address the current deficit,” he said. “Only supermarkets estimate that their business needs at least 15,000 HGV drivers so that they can operate at full capacity before Christmas and avoid disruption or availability issues.”
“We urge the government to increase this program in both size and scope to avoid disappointment for millions of families during the festive season,” he said.
Among other policy changes planned to reduce the crisis is to train 4,000 people as new HGV drivers.
The Department of Education is investing up to £ 10 million to create a free “skill boot camp” to train up to 3,000 new HGV drivers.
Another 1,000 will be trained through local courses funded by the government adult education budget.
About one million letters will be sent to all drivers with HGV driving licenses, encouraging them to return to the industry.
Defense Department testers will be deployed within the next 12 weeks to increase the testing capacity of HGV drivers.
Transport Secretary Grant Shaps said: “After a very difficult 18 months, I know how important this Christmas is for all of us and that is why we are taking this step as soon as possible to ensure proper preparations.”
Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, welcomed the “realistic” decision to temporarily expand the visa scheme.
“This is something that UK food and beverage manufacturers have been looking for over the last few months … to alleviate some of the shortage of workers in the food supply chain,” he said. To find. “