Chris J Ratcliffe via Getty Images
EU lorry drivers are reportedly resisting Downing Street’s latest offer to come back to the UK, as Britain created the entire HGV driver shortage itself.
Nearly a third of BP petrol stations are now running on empty, while rations and a £30 spending limit are being imposed in some parts of the country.
Yet Edwin Atema, the head of research and enforcement at FNV Union which represents drivers across the EU and Europe, said on Monday that overseas drivers would not be helping the UK anytime soon.
BBC Radio 4 Today host Mishal Husain asked him: “If the UK can put together a really compelling offer, then perhaps that is a way to attract either people back to the UK or people who have never driven in the UK?”
Atema replied: “The EU workers we speak to will not go to the UK for a short-term visa to help the UK out of the shit they created themselves.”
While Atema’s words suggest Brexit is the primary reason behind the driver shortages, it is only one of several factors involved.
The pandemic and the overall lifestyle attached to HGV driving have contributed to other driver shortages across the rest of Europe too.
The FNV Union’s head of research also claimed drivers from across Europe and beyond Europe had completely lost trust in the HGV industry long before Covid and Brexit as it is “plagued by exploitation”.
Atema claimed: “The industry is positively regulated, but that is not worth the paper it is written on. There is no enforcement.
“Even the use of toilet facilitation is an issue.”
He alleged “you go back a century” in living conditions as an HGV driver across western Europe, adding: “Companies see drivers merely as extension of the vehicle.”
Atema also suggested that just improving the salary of HGV drivers would not fix the ongoing issue.
He said: “Yeah so in the short-term I think that will be a dead end.
“I think some kind of marshal plan would be needed to take the whole industry back to the surface.
“In the UK, there is not even a collective agreement for the whole road transport industry.
“It’s still up to individual employers to compete on working conditions.
“And that’s never a good sign to drag an industry back to the surface. More is needed.”
He added: “Pay is an important area, but it is not the only area.“