Trade Union, Unite, which protects worker rights, equality and diversity in the workplace is urging the UK government not to issue European lorry drivers with temporary UK visas to plug chronic HGV driver shortages. Instead, the union has urged the logistics industry to increase driver pay rates to solve the crisis, according to a MotorTransport report.
Unite was responding to reports that the UK government is considering changes to UK immigration rules to make it easier for logistics firms to recruit lorry drivers from abroad. The union, which represents thousands of lorry drivers said: “The solution lies in the hands of the logistics industry.”
The union has called on operators to ‘eliminate low pay rates and tackle poor working conditions and inferior welfare facilities’.
However, Unite representatives did say that should the government decide to relax UK immigration rules for logistics firms it would demand safeguards to be put in place to prevent worker exploitation, with workers employed directly by hauliers rather than employment agencies.
A statement issued by Unite said: “Drivers should be recruited on contracts of a decent duration, pay rates should be in line with existing workers and they should not be forced to pay excessive fees for accommodation or travel.”
Adrian Jones, the union’s national officer for road transport, said: “Proposals to recruit mainly eastern European drivers to solve the lorry driver shortage risks recreating the errors that have caused the crisis in the first place. At best it is a sticking plaster and at worst there is a danger it could make a bad situation worse.”
Mr Jones added: “Workers are voting with their feet and leaving the profession due to low pay. If employers think they can bring in drivers from Europe to suppress wages this will only make the problem worse. Lorry driving is a highly skilled, stressful and demanding profession. Unless workers are properly paid then they are not going to be willing to undertake this work.”
Jones echoed the union’s statement in calling for strict rules to be put in place to protect foreign workers so that they are not exploited as cheap labour.
In June, Unite published a seven-point manifesto, which sought to tackle driver shortages across the logistics industry. Some reports suggest that driver vacancies are as high as 76,000, with industry experts citing low pay as a key deterrent to people taking up driving jobs.
Other issues include outsourcing, an unhealthy reliance on agency drivers and bogus self-employment, according to the manifesto.
Haulage firm fines
Unite’s comments come after Workpermit.com recently reported that the UK haulage industry was left fuming by Home Office plans to increase fines for hauliers caught carrying illegal immigrants into Britain.
The industry warned that the new fine, which will apply regardless of whether drivers comply with security measures and schemes, will make the driver shortage crisis even worse.
Industry association, Logistics UK, described the new fines as unfair saying: “Responsible hauliers and drivers who are unwitting victims of people-smuggling gangs should not be penalised if all precautions have been taken to protect their vehicles.”
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