Lorry driver strikes are not the answer, haulage group warns Unite

·4-min read
Lorry driver strikes are not the answer, haulage group warns Unite - AFP/Adrian Dennis
Lorry driver strikes are not the answer, haulage group warns Unite - AFP/Adrian Dennis

Lorry drivers staging a coordinated strike is not the answer to the HGV crisis, a haulage group has warned after union leaders were accused of threatening to "hold Christmas hostage" with mass walkouts.

Unite, the UK’s largest union, has threatened to launch the largest lorry drivers’ strike since the Winter of Discontent in 1979 by balloting thousands of supermarket and delivery drivers to take action unless they are granted higher pay and better conditions.

But Rod McKenzie, managing director of the Road Haulage Association, said industrial action was not helpful.

Asked about The Telegraph's front page, he told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme: "Well, we don't support strike action. We don't think that is helpful at this time.

"Many of the points that Unite make about pay and conditions, particularly the roadside conditions and the poor parking facilities, we would absolutely agree with them,

"But strike action is not the solution to this problem."

Union bosses said the supply chain crisis had given lorry drivers the “power” to hold the country to ransom amid increasing fears that Christmas will be ruined by empty shelves and food shortages.

On Thursday, a spokesman for the Department for Transport accused unions of threatening to “hold Christmas hostage”, adding that any mass walkout would “damage the work being done to restore supply chains at this vital time of year”.

Adrian Jones, the national officer for road transport at Unite, which represents around 50,000 HGV drivers including those for major supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, said drivers were demanding a “firm commitment” from the Government to provide more truck stops with clean toilets and catering facilities.

Shapps: 'We have to be careful, we mustn't report ourselves into a crisis'

The Transport Secretary said issues with supply chains are a problem internationally but they are being dealt with "resiliently" in the UK and "we shouldn't report ourselves into a crisis".

"We know that the globe has woken up after coronavirus with huge supply chain issues everywhere around the entire world," Grant Shapps told Sky News.

"In this country we have taken 24, now 25, different steps on the domestic side of that - the lorry drivers side of things - and we're seeing it have a big impact.

"We've got now three times as many people applying to become lorry drivers every single day than before the crisis.

"We have to be careful, we mustn't report ourselves into a crisis."

Mr Shapps said that under a new policy he was introducing, lorry drivers would be able to make unlimited pick-ups and drop-offs domestically.

"That's the equivalent of adding thousands of lorry drivers to the road, but we don't have to do anything with visas in order to do this," he told Sky News.

"It's a straightforward measure, it'll come in towards the end of the year.

"People will be able to get things for Christmas - these measures are having an impact, things are loosening up.

"When I talk to ports they're saying 'yes, it is busy, it's a globally busy picture', but if you compare us to many ports around the world, we need to keep this in proportion - things are flowing."

Christmas will go ahead with food, toys and family

The Transport Secretary said Christmas is not at risk from consumer shortages and there will be food and gifts.

Speaking on Times Radio, Grant Shapps said: "Unfortunately, unlike last year where there was a genuine question about whether we'll be able to see friends and family and it was very restricted, that's not the case this year

"Christmas will go ahead, we'll be able to see our friends and families. There will be food, there will be gifts.

"I do know that the entire world has a squeeze on its supply chain. That's because we're all coming out of this very long period of coronavirus, and the UK economy, perhaps particularly because we've got an expanding economy, the fastest growing in the G7, means that there are particular stresses and strains.

"But we're taking a whole range of measures, including one that I'm announcing today about the way that lorry drivers from abroad pick up and drop things off, the so called cabotage rules.

"And under our changes that will mean that they can, in an unlimited way by Christmas, pick up and drop off goods within this country within a 14-day period."

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