Expert demands short-term solution to tackle Christmas labour crisis

HGV driver shortage: Immigration is needed says Bielby

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James Bielby of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors has demanded UK immigration rules be eased for 12-months to solve the HGV driver and various seasonal worker shortages currently causing chaos in Britain as the prospect of empty shelves at Christmas becomes more likely.

Mr Bielby told LBC how a shortage of food processing workers to HGV drivers are threatening to supercharge food shortages from turkeys to pigs in blankets and will be noticed in the shops.

He acknowledged that the Government has addressed these labour cavities by rolling our 5,500 temporary, three-month work visas but insisted more must be done to save Christmas.

And in an honest admission, he claimed what the UK “really needs” is  “more immigration in the short term”.

He added: “Not for three months but maybe for 12 months, and not 5,000 workers, perhaps 20,000 workers.”

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He said this figure would mean foreign workers could come over to Britain and “fix the genuine structural problems” rampant across multiple industries currently.

The distribution expert added how while no one is denying there are structural issues, “short-term measures” must be brought in “to deliver Christmas and beyond.”

Mr Bielby stressed how despite efforts from the government to plug the labour gap, “not a single driver” will be in the UK until November.

He noted how by this time, the deadline for Christmas planning and logistical operations are long gone, which he said usually take place from September.

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He slammed: “The Government have very much doubled-down on industry.

“We saw Boris Johnson say at the Conservative Party conference this week saying ‘this is a problem for business, business have made this issue and they need to solve it.'”

The distributor stressed he did partly agree but he criticised the “finger-pointing on both sides” as a blame game erupted between industry and the Government.

Despite the comments, he praised the Government’s appointment of former Tesco CEO to the role of “supply chain guru” which he said was a step in the right direction for getting through the labour shortage chaos.

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According to the Road Haulage Association, there is now a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified drivers in the UK.

The shortages have also triggered a petrol panic in Britain as the lack of drivers delivering petrol saw a collapse in the supply chain, spurred on by panic buying Britons who stormed forecourts to fill up following the news.

Labour shortages as a result of the pandemic, Brexit, and a lack of foreign workers are also behind issues within Britain’s supply chains which have also sent food prices soaring as fears rise over empty shelves as Britain edges closer to Christmas.

It comes as a farm haulage company told Radio 4’s Today programme last week that Britons could see a 40 percent rise in food prices as hauliers hike rates for drivers to keep them in their jobs and attract new drivers to the industry. 

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