Short-term visas ‘not enough’ to fix supply chain crisis

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Short-term visas for foreign lorry drivers and food industry workers ‘not enough’ to fix supply chain crisis

Related tags: Supply chain

Plans to issue more than 10,000 short-term visas to foreign lorry drivers and food industry workers 'will not be enough' to solve Britain’s supply chain crisis, business leaders have warned.

Over the weekend, the Government announced that 5,000 HGV drivers will be able to come to the UK for 3 months in the run-up to Christmas, providing short-term relief for the haulage industry.

A further 5,500 visas for poultry workers will also be made available for the same short period, to 'avoid any potential further pressures' on the food industry.

Recruitment for additional short-term HGV drivers and poultry workers will begin in October and these visas will be valid until Christmas Eve (24 December).

However, some business leaders have responded by calling on the Government to relax immigration restrictions much further to prevent chaos over the festive season.

Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the British Chambers of Commerce, described the visa scheme as 'insufficient', adding that it would not save consumers and businesses from 'another less than happy Christmas'.

She said: “Even if these short-term opportunities attract the maximum amount of people allowed under the scheme, it will not be enough to address the scale of the problem that has now developed in our supply chains.

"This announcement is the equivalent of throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire."

The Government said visas 'will not be the long term solution' to the crisis, and reform within the industry is vital.

It added that it wants to see employers 'make long term investments in the UK domestic workforce' instead of 'relying on overseas labour' to build a high-wage, high-skill economy.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "This package of measures builds on the important work we have already done to ease this global crisis in the UK, and this Government continues to do everything we can to help the haulage and food industries contend with the HGV driver shortage.

"We are acting now but the industries must also play their part with working conditions continuing to improve and the deserved salary increases continuing to be maintained in order for companies to retain new drivers.

"After a very difficult 18 months, I know how important this Christmas is for all of us and that’s why we’re taking these steps at the earliest opportunity to ensure preparations remain on track."

The Department for Education is investing up to £10m to create new skills boot camps to train up to 3,000 more people to become HGV drivers. The free, short, intensive courses will train drivers to be road ready and gain a category C or category C&E licence.

An additional 1,000 people are expected to be trained through courses accessed locally and funded by the Government’s adult education budget.

Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, welcomed the Government's announcement, but warned that it is not a silver bullet.

He said: “This is something UK food and drink manufacturers have asked for over the last few months.

“This is a start, but we need the Government to collaborate with industry and seek long term solutions.”

Last week, data from CGA and Fourth revealed that 99% of hospitality businesses are currently experiencing supply chain issues​, with nearly nine in 10 (88%) facing reduced product lines. More than four in five have seen deliveries of products delayed (82%) or failing to turn up completely (84%).

Related topics: Business & Legislation

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