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TRADE unions dismissed the Tory government’s “sticking plaster” proposals to solve the ongoing shortage of lorry drivers today.
Haulage chiefs had already said that the government’s emergency programme to issue temporary visas to thousands of European lorry drivers was unlikely to work.
Union leaders representing transport workers in Britain and Europe have now said that the shortage, which has contributed to chaos at British petrol stations for days, follows years of suppressed pay and conditions in the industry.
A rush to the pumps was sparked last week when a leaked BP document exposed the firm’s fears that the shortage of lorry drivers could prevent it from keeping up with fuel deliveries.
GMB national officer Andy Prendergast said that the way to solve the shortage is to pay drivers what they know they are worth, as well as improving appalling conditions in the industry.
And Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The idea this crisis can be solved by sticking-plaster solutions like issuing 5,000 three-month visas to workers from other countries is ludicrous.
“At the heart of today’s crisis is a long-standing push by the employers to suppress wages for lorry drivers and the unacceptable way drivers are treated and disrespected throughout the industry.”
European Transport Workers’ Federation president Frank Moreels said: “Giving out temporary visas will not fix things.
“There needs to be fundamental reforms to improve pay and conditions in the industry and make the job more respected.”
Edwin Atema, an official of the Dutch union FNV, which represents drivers across the Europe, said that the Tories’ offer represents a dead end.
“The EU workers we speak to will not go to the UK for a short-term visa to help UK out of the shit they created themselves,” he said.
The Royal College of Nursing’s director for England Patricia Marquis said that health and care services could not afford to lose any more staff because they are unable to travel to work or see patients in the community.
“In light of these supply problems, health and care workers need to be a priority or patient care will be compromised,” she said.
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves noted that the haulage industry had been warning about a driver shortage for months but that ministers had simply ignored them.
Contradicting earlier reports, Environment Secretary George Eustice said today that there are “no plans at the moment” to draft in the army to drive lorries.
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