More UK Work Visas And Government Relaxing Rules On Foreign Driver Deliveries
As the government plans to issue more seasonal working visas to solve to shortage of abattoir workers, the rules on the number of deliveries overseas lorry drivers can make in the UK will be relaxed to tackle supply chain problems in the run-up to Christmas.
Under new plans, European hauliers will be allowed to make unlimited deliveries or collections within a 14 day period. Currently EU drivers can only make two pick-ups or drop-offs each week.
The government hope the changes will be implemented in time to turn the current delivery backlog before Christmas, although UK drivers are complaining that they lose work to cheaper EU rivals.
The UK’s heavy goods lorry driver shortage, caused by an aging workforce, lockdown, Brexit and other factors, has caused queues at petrol stations, emptying supermarkets and left containers piled up at Felixstowe Port unable to be moved.
Retailers have also warned there could be shortages of items such as toys at Christmas, with shoppers urged to buy gifts early.
The Home Office has already agreed to up to 5,000 temporary visas for HGV drivers from abroad, as well as 5500 poultry workers, but so far only a fraction have been issued.
And the first foreign drivers brought in on the visa scheme may not even arrive for another month, sources have told BBC.
With other European countries suffering similar shortages, qualified drivers do not have any incentive to give up a permanent job to work in the UK for a few months.
Ministers are now planning rapid changes to cabotage rules, which govern how many jobs a haulier can make in a foreign country and could have an immediate affect on the driver shortage.
Foreign HGV drivers that come into the country laden with goods will be able to pick up and drop off items an unlimited number of times for two weeks before they return home.
The changes require approval after a one-week consultation, but if agreed will come into force “towards the end of this year for up to six months”, according to the government.
The new flexible rules will free up thousands more HGV deliveries each month, the government said, so more goods – especially food and items that come via ports – can get delivered on schedule.
With 1.2 million job vacancies, including 100,000 HGV drivers and 500,000 agricultural workers, business leaders want the government to do more to help.
Business chiefs in London have criticised the ‘Shortage Occupations’ list of only 30 skilled jobs, which includes ballet dancers and first violinists, but not enough to deal with many other acute skills gaps.
The multi-billion pound hospitality industry, vital for London’s economy, has 188,000 vacancies, according to the trade body UK Hospitality.
There is a separate list for education and healthcare workers, such as nurses which are in short supply in the UK.
Employers wants the Migration Advisory Committee, which compiles the list, to respond faster to business needs.
The growing farming crisis has forced the Home Office to issue 800 temporary seasonal 6-month work visas to foreign abattoir butchers to avoid thousands of pigs being culled and going to waste. Environment Secretary George Eustice said the requirement for butchers to be fluent in English will not be dropped.
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