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Union issues lorry driver strike warning

Written by: Emma Lunn
Unite warns that the country could ‘grind to a halt without drivers’ if the government doesn’t get a grip on the reasons behind driver shortages.

The UK is already seeing gaps on supermarket shelves due to a shortage of HGV drivers and the threat of industrial action is now growing.

Unite says the government and haulage bosses have been ‘dragging their feet’ and should sit down with unions to tackle the underlying causes of the crisis.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates the shortage of HGV drivers at 100,000 and Unite has described the situation as ‘a perfect storm’ in the worst possible way.

Unite accused the employers and government of doing nothing to deal with ‘a brazen lack of respect’ towards drivers as they tried to squeeze ‘the last drop of profit’ from their contracts.

Unite has pinpointed a number of short and long-term factors that have contributed to the current turmoil. These include the HGV driver shortage made worse by an ageing workforce who are retiring; the effect of the ‘pingdemic’; the backlog in tests for new entrants due to Covid restrictions; and European Union (EU) drivers who returned home during the pandemic or due to Brexit.

Unite warned last week that it planned to ballot drivers for strike action after a row about pay regarding drivers who deliver to Budgens and Londis convenience stores.

Adrian Jones, Unite national officer for road transport, said: “We call on ministers and employers to stop dragging their feet and sit down with Unite to chart a way forward, otherwise the present-day problems of gaps on supermarket shelves will just get worse.

“It is becoming clearer by the day that we are facing a serious HGV driver shortage across the UK – ‘a perfect storm’ in the worst possible way. Already gaps are appearing on supermarket shelves, and logistics and hauliers’ organisations are warning August will be a pinch point regarding the shortage of drivers as workers take summer breaks.

“The current shortage of an estimated 100,000 HGV drivers in the UK has highlighted a number of long-running serious discontents in the industry, from poor pay and conditions to inadequate toilet provision and lack of parking facilities.”

Unite says that some of the problems the industry face are long-term, such as low pay and long hours; but some are more recent such as the impact of Brexit on the number of EU drivers available.

Tesco is currently offering HGV drivers which join the supermarket a £1,000 signing-on bonus.

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