Terminal Eurotunnel Freight. Source: Eurotunnel
The UK’s logistics industry is demanding that the government publishes the results of its Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)’s recommendations on the future role of European workers in the UK immediately, instead of waiting until its proposed publication date next year. According to the Freight Transport Association, waiting until the UK is on the point of leaving the European Union before deciding the future of EU workers in such a key sector could have a catastrophic effect on all aspects of the nation’s supply chain and its ability to deliver what British business and industry needs to continue to keep trading successfully.
“The UK is a trading nation, and trade needs to continue to flow freely across its borders,” says James Hookham, deputy CEO of the FTA, “whatever political negotiations are under way. The country’s businesses will need time to plan efficiently in the run up to, and after, Brexit, and leaving crucial members of the workforce under a cloud of uncertainty as to their legal status and right to work in the UK is an irresponsible move. Lack of available skilled staff will pose a serious threat to links at every stage of the nation’s supply chain, and could jeopardise supplies of goods and services to homes, businesses and manufacturers at a time when they can least afford it.
“As a sector, logistics operators are already facing serious issues in recruiting sufficient skilled workers to cover the varied and urgent requirements of a sector which serves every area of our daily lives. To continue to function effectively, the sector relies on the expertise and knowledge of a wealth of skilled labour from the UK and across the EU. If those EU workers are to be denied access to work as the UK leaves the European Union, their employers need to know now so that plans can be made now, not with only two days’ notice, which is all that the planned MAC publication date will provide. To suggest that industry should be kept waiting like this is simply irresponsible, and ignores the needs of those businesses which rely on foreign workers to keep Britain trading.”
More than 310,000 workers from the EU are currently employed in UK logistics, 12.3% of the sector’s total workforce. And with skills shortages already occurring in several key areas of the industry, as Mr Hookham warns, an overnight loss of further workers could be catastrophic if contingency plans cannot be formulated.
“An estimated 311,000 skilled and semi-skilled EU nationals are a crucial part of the logistics workforce in the UK,” he continues, “working as drivers, forklift operators, warehouse staff and in other key roles. In a sector already experiencing a shortage of more than 35,000 drivers of vans, forklift trucks and large goods vehicles (LGVs), losing these overseas workers and their expertise would represent a significant threat to the ongoing success of British businesses. It is also worth noting that these are vacancies that cannot be filled overnight, requiring as they do specialist training and knowledge.
“The government’s refusal to publish its MAC findings until two days before the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU could be catastrophic for the continuity of the supply chain. On behalf of its members, FTA urges the Home Office to provide the necessary information to business now, so that adequate planning can be undertaken and calls on the government to provide the support required to ensure that sufficient skilled and trained staff will be available to keep Britain trading once Brexit happens. Otherwise, there is a very real risk to our supply chain and the links it provides for business both at home and overseas.”
FTA is the only organisation in the UK that represents all of logistics, with more than 16,000 members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers whose businesses depend on the efficient movement of goods. Established in 1889, FTA’s members operate more than half of the UK’s HGV fleet, are responsible for more than 90% of freight moved by rail, and 70% of the UK’s sea and air freight. The UK logistics sector employs more than 2.5M people (almost 10% of the UK workforce), and by Keeping Britain Trading directly impacts every aspect of daily life.
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