Hire ‘domestic workforce’ to fix lorry driver shortage, Kwarteng tells businesses

(Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng on Friday (27) has asked business leaders to utilise “domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad”, stated recent reports, amid calls from various business bodies to hire more EU workers to tackle the current shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers.

In a letter addressed to the British Retail Consortium and Logistics UK, Kwarteng said that foreign labour only offered “short-term, temporary solution” and firms should instead hire those currently still on the government’s furlough scheme, Financial Times reported.

According to the latest data from the Office of National Statistics, there are still around two million people on full-time or temporary furlough, with the scheme due to close next month.

“I am sure you would agree on the importance of utilising the strength of our domestic workforce and how our migration policies need to be considered alongside our strategies to ensure UK-based workers are better able to secure decent employment opportunities,” Kwarteng mentioned in the letter.

A government spokesperson added that the UK has a highly resilient food supply chain and “well-established ways of working” to address food supply chain disruptions.

“We recently announced a package of measures to help tackle the HGV driver shortage, including plans to streamline the process for new drivers to gain their HGV licence and to increase the number of driving tests able to be conducted,” the outlet quoted the government spokesperson, who added that the government “want to see employers make long-term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad and our Plan for Jobs is helping people across the country retrain, build new skills and get back into work”.

Earlier, reports on Thursday (26) claimed that the government was considering an early review on the Shortage Occupation List- which otherwise is scheduled to be reviewed next year- to tackle the acute shortage of HGV drivers as it is reportedly crippling the food and drink supply in the stores across the country. 

Reports also claimed that Home Office officials are said to be blocking the review being brought forward, amid concerns it could lead to other sectors demanding inclusion.

HGV drivers are currently not included on the list but there is pressure from supermarkets to include them to help ease the shortfall while more UK drivers are trained.

Companies and lobby groups representing food production companies reportedly want a 12-month visa to be created for HGV drivers and workers in other critical roles that have seen a labour supply crunch.