The UK government has come under fire after announcing its intention to give European truck drivers the ability to perform more UK pick-ups and drop-offs, but failed to secure the same rights for UK drivers on the continent.
Grant Shapps, the secretary of transport, said Friday morning that the industry should welcome the new flexibility proposed around “cabotage”. The measure is designed to help tackle a critical shortage of truck drivers, which has resulted in strain on supply chains, empty shelves and a brief gasoline-buying frenzy.
“Why wouldn’t we want to do things that are sane, proportionate and give us extra resilience during what is a global supply chain problem,” the Transport Secretary said.
But Jim McMahon, Labor’s shadow transport secretary, said the proposed deal was not good enough. âAuthorizing cabotage for heavy truck drivers should have been included in the [Brexit] withdrawal agreement, and it should also apply to UK carriers working in the EU, âhe said. “It still isn’t.”
Under the proposals, foreign operators entering the country loaded with goods will be able to pick up and drop off goods an unlimited number of times for two weeks before returning home. Currently, EU carriers can only make two cabotage trips in seven days.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said the move would “sabotage our industry” by undermining UK truck drivers.
âI spoke to some of our members last night and they were appalled – ‘ridiculous’, ‘pathetic’, ‘dumbfounded’ were some of their most releasable comments,â said Rod McKenzie, RHA policy director.
“Allowing foreign companies and drivers to come in perhaps up to six months every fortnight to do unlimited work at low rates, which undermines UK carriers.”
Shapps fired back, pointing out that the trade body has been asking the government for months to allow more foreign drivers into Britain.
The transport secretary said the cabotage measure was just one of 25 initiatives he had taken in recent weeks to address the driver shortage plaguing UK industry.
But McMahon said the public faced a “potentially wasted Christmas” because ministers downplayed the scale of the crisis. “The government clumsy from one delayed reaction to another – a direct result of its inability to plan properly to make Brexit work,” he said.
Meanwhile, Unite the Union has threatened strikes by truck drivers to demand better wages and conditions – a move that would cause even more disruption.
The transport department accused the union of trying to “hold Christmas hostage”.
But Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, said: âIt is time for the employer to pay workers at a rate appropriate for the job. Enough is enough. Unite will consult with its members before deciding on next steps, including exploring options for industrial action. I will not allow workers to pay the price for the pandemic. “
Shapps’ announcement was part of a larger package that included seasonal visas for 800 foreign butchers to alleviate labor shortages in the pork industry.
Farmers had warned that 10,000 pigs could have to be destroyed each week due to a shortage of workers at industrial slaughterhouses, with some operating a quarter below normal capacity. They have already slaughtered thousands of animals to avoid breaking allotted space regulations after at least 120,000 surplus pigs accumulated on farms due to butcher shortages, the National said last week. Pig Association.