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September 26, 2021

Up to 10,500 lorry drivers and poultry workers are to be offered temporary UK visas in an attempt to avoid supply chain disruptions ahead of Christmas, the government has said in a statement.

The UK government had previously ruled out issuing visas to foreign workers, but reports on Saturday suggested ministers were planning a U-turn. According to the government's statement, 5,000 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers and 5,500 poultry workers have been added to the existing visa scheme until Christmas 2021 "to ease supply chain pressures in food and haulage industries during exceptional circumstances this year."

Up to 4,000 people will be trained as new HGV drivers "to help tackle skills shortages and support more people to launch careers within the logistics sector," and nearly 1 million letters will be sent to all drivers who hold an HGV license, "encouraging them back into the industry," the government said.

Worker shortages are a growing problem in Britain, which had a record 1 million job vacancies between June and August, according to the Office for National Statistics. The U.K. is running out of time to find more truck drivers before isolated incidents at supermarkets and fast-food chains erupt into a deeper crisis
The Food and Drink Federation's Chief Executive, Ian Wright, said his organization welcomed the government's "pragmatic decision" to temporarily add HGV drivers and poultry workers to the visa scheme. "This is something UK food and drink manufacturers have asked for over the last few months ... to alleviate some of the pressure labor shortages have placed on the food supply chain,".

"This is a start but we need the government to continue to collaborate with industry and seek additional long-term solutions."But others, including Andrew Opie, a director at the British Retail Consortium, said the limit of 5,000 HGV visas would do "little to alleviate the current shortfall," according to local media.

source: CNN