Following a UK government announcement that a temporary UK visa will be launched for foreign truck drivers in an effort to ease food and fuel shortages, bosses in retail, hospitality and care have launched an appeal for a temporary visa to combat growing staff shortages. Retail giant, Next, led the charge in urging the government to relax UK immigration rules.
Meanwhile, bosses across the hospitality and care sectors have accused the government of hypocrisy and ignorance as restaurants, pubs, bars, hotels, care homes and more struggle to fill vacancies as they emerge from pandemic lockdown protocols.
Next, one of Britain’s biggest clothing retailers, has warned that unless the Home Office relaxes UK immigration rules, it could struggle to deliver its ‘normal service’ in the run up to Christmas.
Peak buying season affected
CEO of Next, Simon Wolfson, who backed Brexit but warned against cutting immigration, said: “Our clothing and homeware stores and online shop could be affected in the run-up to Christmas, Britain's peak buying season.”
“We anticipate that, without some relaxation of immigration rules, we are likely to experience some degradation in our service in the run up to Christmas,” Wolfson added.
In the wake of post-Brexit UK immigration rules being reversed for foreign truckers, albeit temporarily, several sectors struggling with staff shortages have spoken of the need for UK immigration rules to be relaxed.
The UK government was warned that back-tracking on immigration rules to ease the driver shortage would ‘louden calls’ from other sectors to ease UK visa rules. Recently, Boris Johnson conceded that the government will have to face the wave of ‘we told you so statements’ as staff shortages continue to grip the UK.
S**t you created for yourselves
Brexit, combined with the coronavirus pandemic, has sparked a mass exodus of EU workers over the last 18 months. Recently, a Dutch truckers’ union boss mocked the UK, saying that a temporary UK visa won’t attract drivers to Britain as many will refuse to ‘rescue the UK from the s**t it has created for itself’.
Meanwhile, a representative of the freight industry in Germany said that a temporary visa won’t draw truckers to come and help with Britain’s driver crisis.
The chief executive of the German Freight Forwarding and Logistics Association, Frank Huster, told Reuters: “The labour market on the European continent has gratefully accepted these workers - they are now lost to re-employment in the United Kingdom.”
The UK’s care sector is said to be in uproar over the government’s U-turn on visas for foreign truckers. With 100,000 staff vacancies in the care home sector, bosses have said that allowing visas for overseas truckers represents a ‘cynical U-turn from government ministers’ who were doing everything to stop UK immigration numbers from rising.
Care sector bosses also blasted the government for ‘favouring the NHS’ amid the coronavirus pandemic. A number of UK visa rules were relaxed for doctors, nurses and others working for the NHS, yet such benefits for foreign workers in the care sector were not afforded, despite care homes being hit hard by staff shortages at the height of the health crisis.
Meanwhile, pubs, restaurants, bars and other businesses in hospitality said that they will struggle to cope over Christmas amid a 10% (210,000) rise in vacancies since the pandemic and Brexit.
UK Hospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “We simply can’t cope. Our businesses will not be able to operate fully. Pubs, restaurants and hotels are having to shut for several days of the week or close off parts of their buildings as they simply do not have the staff to run on full capacity.”
“Were urging the government to relax UK immigration rules to ease the staffing crisis,” she added.
Revisit UK immigration policy
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “The driver shortage, and staff shortages elsewhere, show that the Johnson government must urgently revisit its entire post-Brexit UK immigration policy – it’s completely reckless.”
Meanwhile Scotland’s Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes said: “The bottom line is, and you are seeing the UK Government finally coming to a position of accepting that, that as an economy, we have valued enormously people who have come to this country [Scotland] to work.”
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