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Supermarkets must take responsibility for shortages disrupting supply chains, Unite says

SUPERMARKETS must take responsibility for the labour shortages disrupting their supply chains, Unite demanded today.

Amid a significant lack of food industry workers and HGV delivery drivers, the union called on industry bosses not to seek quick fixes, such as “raiding other countries” for staff. 

Instead, they must work with unions to properly address the long-standing problems of insecure work, low pay and unpleasant working conditions that are the root causes of the shortages, Unite stressed.

More than a quarter of food and hospitality firms have reported serious shortages, as disruption related to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Conservatives’ handling of Brexit combines with a long-term delivery driver shortage to create a perfect storm.

Unite national officer for food, drink and agriculture Bev Clarkson said: “Many parts of the UK food manufacturing sector, particularly poultry processing, are infamous for low wages, insecure contracts and exhausting work.

“The supermarkets fostered and became ever more dependent on a supply chain based on a high turnover of cheap labour.

“But that model, which was exploitative, is broken and the supermarkets must take responsibility for making it fit for purpose.”

Unite national officer for road transport Adrian Jones added that the “race-to-the-bottom employment market” has driven workers away. 

“The solution is not to raid other countries of their workers but to sit down with Unite and make HGV driving a more attractive proposition,” he pointed out. 

“Unite is ready to sit down with employers to set good standards across the sector and we call on the government to establish an industry body to do just that.”

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