Skills report shows UK reliance on EU workers to keep Britain trading

Skills report shows UK reliance on EU workers to keep Britain trading

According to FTA, the industry body which speaks for the logistics sector, if British business is to make a success of Brexit its supply chain needs to have access to European workers in the short to medium term.

As the latest independent industry report into skills shortages in the logistics industry has recently been published, Sally Gilson of FTA called on government to reassess its immigration system to ensure it is based on needs and not qualifications.

Gilson said, ” The Skills Shortage report again shows that logistics continues to struggle to recruit new HGV drivers. The industry currently needs 52,000 drivers for logistics businesses to be fully operational and continue to keep up with consumer and business demands. Having the freedom to recruit from across the EU has helped to keep our lorries and vans on the road but with uncertainty surrounding the parameters of a future immigration system. The logistics sector is concerned that there just won’t be enough drivers available to transport the goods and raw materials the UK is reliant upon.

“The Migration Advisory Committee report recommended restricting lower-skilled immigration,  however, logistics businesses are reliant on those workers to keep goods and services moving. Unless domestic workers can be incentivised to switch careers or take up a meaningful apprenticeship in logistics, something which the industry has been pressing government on for a while, businesses will remain dependent on these migrant workers. Without them, goods and services will simply fail to move around the country and across its borders. FTA is urging government to build its future immigration policy on what the UK requires to keep trading, not on a qualification or salary levels.”

As with other service industries, logistics is currently facing significant skills shortages and the loss of workers from the EU will put further pressure on careers including HGV and van drivers, fork lift operators and warehouse personnel, with EU workers representing more than 12% of the UK’s logistics workforce.

“Logistics is a flexible, adaptable sector that is always willing and able to rise to any challenge placed in front of it,” Gilson continued. “With Brexit looming, large businesses are having to prepare for all scenarios, but without knowing what a No Deal outcome could mean for both EU and UK citizens, it is impossible to plan staffing levels effectively. No one wants vehicles to grind to a halt but it is a real prospect if the government does not prioritise the confirmation of the workforce which is tasked with keeping Britain trading.

“The logistics sector is working hard to attract new homegrown talent but we are competing against many other sectors also suffering skills shortages, which is why we have record levels of vacancies across the sector. EU workers have been welcomed into our businesses and are valuable to their employers. Some choose to live in the UK permanently, others take seasonal positions. Either way, logistics businesses want to retain the right to employ workers from outside the UK – there is no alternative.  Just like there is no magic money tree, there is no magic labour tree, the future employment criteria for these vital EU workers must be prioritised to protect the integrity of the country’s supply chain.”