The supply chain needed access to European workers in the short to medium term, warned the FTA. Prohibiting businesses from hiring EU workers would limit the drivers needed to transport goods and raw materials to the UK, it argued.
FTA head of skills Sally Gilson called on Government to reassess its immigration system to ensure it was based on what the UK required to keep trading, not on qualification or salary levels.
‘Reliant on those workers’
“The Migration Advisory Committee report recommended restricting lower-skilled immigration,” said Gilson. “However, logistics businesses are reliant on those workers to keep goods and services moving.
“Unless domestic workers can be incentivised to switch careers or take up a meaningful apprenticeship in logistics – something which the industry has been pressing Government on for a while – businesses will remain dependent on these migrant workers.”
Staff shortages extend beyond heavy goods vehicle drivers to forklift operators and warehouse personnel, 12% of which are EU workers.
One easy fix would be to recruit homegrown talent, but this has been hampered by competition with many other sectors also suffering skills shortages. This, in turn, has led to a record number of vacancies across the industry, claimed Gilson.
‘There is no alternative’
“Logistics businesses want to retain the right to employ workers from outside the UK – there is no alternative,” she added.
“Just like there is no magic money tree, there is no magic labour tree. The future employment criteria for these vital EU workers must be prioritised to protect the integrity of the country’s supply chain.”
Meanwhile, the food and drink industry is at risk of a labour shortage if the current immigration system is not overhauled, a new report has found.