Unions Boss: Europe's Drivers Don't Want to Return to UK & Help Country 'Get out of the Sh*t'
11:39 GMT 27.09.2021 (Updated: 22:15 GMT 27.09.2021)
Western Europe needs a Marshall Plan to revive the haulage industry and stop lorry drivers leaving their jobs, the leader of the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (FNV) argues.
FNV boss Edwin Atema says Europe’s drivers don't want to return to the UK to help the country “get out of the s***."
“The EU workers we speak to will not go to the UK for a short-term visa to help the UK get out of the s*** they created for themselves. It’s not like offering a visa… and the issue will be solved. Drivers need way more than a visa and a pay slip,” Atema said.
The COVID pandemic – coupled with post-Brexit border issues – has resulted in a fuel crisis for the UK, driven by a shortfall of about 100,000 licensed lorry drivers.
Despite the UK government taking measures last week to deal with the shortage by temporarily waiving visa restrictions for lorry drivers and encouraging workers from abroad to fill the void, the problem remains.
Atema adds that drivers from across Europe have lost trust in the industry.
“Long before coronavirus and Brexit this industry was sick already, plagued by exploitation… which ended up with drivers voting with their feet and leaving,” he says.
General Secretary of the European Road Haulers Association (UETR) Marco Digioia similarly argues that “there are many other issues, such as working conditions, pay, and the costs of getting into and working in the UK.”
The Liberal Democrats have blasted the government's handling of the crisis, calling it a "piecemeal approach."
UK Environment Secretary George Eustice said on Monday that despite people panic buying fuel in Britain, there's "plenty of petrol in refineries and stores."
"The most important thing is that people just buy petrol as they normally would," Eustice said.
UK PM Boris Johnson’s spokesman also confirmed that the country has ample fuel stocks, while the steps taken by the government – combined with the end of panic buying – should be enough to mitigate the crisis.
"We are not complacent, we are taking all preparatory steps necessary so can put in place further measures if needed," BoJo's spokesperson added.
British supply chains, from fuel to food, have been affected by the post-Brexit shortage of lorry drivers exacerbated by the pandemic, with continuous disruptions projected in the run up to Christmas.