HGV drivers have played a vital role in keeping our country running throughout the pandemic. Keeping critical supply lines open, ensuring food is delivered to our shops and playing an invaluable role in our economy.
I absolutely share the concerns of producers, retailers and consumers about ongoing challenges in the supply chain. The serious disruption and added costs resulting from this crisis risk harming our economy and increasing prices for consumers.
Unfortunately I believe we’re going to see this driver shortage problem coming back again in different sectors. Unless the Government steps up and takes action now, I fear we will see these supply chain issues continuing into the winter. I don’t want people in this country to have another Christmas ruined by this Prime Minister’s lack of planning.
The Government have been warned on numerous occasions about the skills shortage and the inevitable impact that Brexit would have on the supply of labour and yet they did nothing to prepare at all and now we are all suffering the consequences.
Every day wasted is prolonging this crisis. The Government has been talking about issuing visas but still hasn’t done anything. Meanwhile our essential workers are struggling to get to work and families face a cost of living crisis.
The truth is, the Tories have failed to value good working class jobs. They have failed to invest in those jobs and now we are all paying the price. We have a 90,000 HGV driver shortage, leaving supermarket shelves empty and businesses without vital supplies. And it’s only going to get worse.
Therefore I am calling for a recall of parliament so we can issue the visas we need now for short-term capacity and make sure there is a plan to secure supply chains for the Winter.
We need to hold an emergency summit of the road haulage industry, training providers, affected business groups, Government ministers and transport unions to focus on the immediate crisis and on finally addressing the pay, terms, training, licensing and conditions of drivers which has led to such serious labour shortages.
The Government is offering far too little, far too late. We have seen examples of businesses impacted by supply change disruption and supermarket shelves empty. Now the delivery of vital medical supplies is being affected. The industry has been warning about this crisis for years, with only 9,000 HGV driving tests completed in 2019.
If the Conservatives cared about higher wages, they could change things overnight.
They could ban disgraceful employment practices like fire and rehire to stop the downward pressure on workers.
They could stop repeatedly refusing to outlaw zero hour contracts that mean workers don’t know when their next shift is.
They could put in place Fair Pay Agreements as Labour would, and create security in everyday work.
They could have spent the last five years growing skills and dealing with the gaps for our post-Brexit future, instead of scrapping their Industrial Strategy.
Labour’s plan to buy, make and sell more in Britain would be tackling those gaps right now.
But, instead of raising standards and driving forward our recovery, the Conservatives are clobbering working people with increases in council tax, income tax, a jobs tax and a cut in Universal Credit.
The reality is that it’s Conservative choices that are creating a squeeze on the cost-of-living crisis.
And it’s a decade of Conservative choices, weak growth, poor productivity and a lack of planning that have led us here.
People have got enough to grapple with, and increasing prices are just one more thing to worry about.
We urgently need to see Ministers bring forward a road freight recovery plan, bringing together all interested parties, with training providers, examiners, businesses, industry bodies and trade unions all working behind a single plan.