Brexit: Ian Watson explains new measures EU lorry drivers
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Brexit Britain is not the only country to face a shortage of lorry drivers. The profession is one of the sectors struggling in France. Firms are grappling with the industry’s the lack of attractiveness, partly due to low wages.
According to Patrice Clos, secretary general of FO Transports, there is currently a lack of between 60 and 65,000 truck drivers in the country.
Workers have been offered an increase in wages of around five percent alongside an improved health and provident fund – with more guarantees on social protection or even long-term sick leave.
But negotiations ended in failure on Thursday.
The five unions said on Wednesday: “Transport workers need a strong signal from their employers and this necessarily involves a revaluation that is not the crumbs they want to throw us.”
They all asked for an increase of at least 10 percent, or even a 13th month for some.
They continued: “If inflation continues, we are not immune from a further automatic increase in the minimum wage which would once again place all of our grids below it, including with the proposal employer of a five percent salary increase.
“How can we still be there with the two years that we have just gone through?”
In the UK, a leading trade union has warned that “constantly relaxing” regulations for lorry drivers amid ongoing staff shortages could lead to more workers leaving the industry.
Unite, which represents tens of thousands of HGV drivers, said the Government was undertaking a “snap” consultation exercise on extending the relaxation on driving regulations from Sunday for a further four weeks as a result of an increase in sickness absence.
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Driving hours for lorry drivers have constantly been relaxed since last July due to a “chronic” shortage of drivers, said Unite.
General secretary Sharon Graham said: “The Government is increasingly resembling a one trick pony when it comes to dealing with lorry driver shortages and is intent on pursuing a policy which has no regard for the health of drivers’ and the safety of road users.
“Rather than constantly relaxing driving regulations, the Government needs to finally begin to address the issues of long hours, excessive and irregular shift patterns and the lack of welfare and parking facilities that has created the driver shortage crisis in the first place.
“We will fully support any member who believes that working excessive hours is damaging their health or placing themselves or others in danger.”
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Unite said it had discovered via a Freedom of Information request that the Government has failed to undertake an impact assessment on the effect of the extended hours on drivers’ health and road users safety, as it is a “temporary measure”.
Under the relaxation, drivers can drive for up to 11 hours a day (compared to the normal maximum of 10 hours) and a total of 99 hours a fortnight (previously 90) with rest periods also reduced, said Unite.
The union’s national officer for road haulage, Adrian Jones, added: “Constantly relaxing driving regulations is both dangerous and increasingly ineffective.
“Hauliers are increasingly not applying to utilise the relaxation on driving hours, as drivers are exhausted, they realise it is not safe and their workers will leave if it is implemented.”
Unite added it was estimated that hundreds of drivers leave the industry every week, warning that a further relaxation on driving hours was going to make a “bad situation even worse”.
A Government spokesperson said: “The relaxation to drivers’ hours has been just one of 32 short, medium and long-term measures we introduced to tackle the challenges to our supply chains – which were brought on by global pressures including the pandemic and the international shortage of HGV drivers.
“We are now working with industry to explore extending these relaxations to support the sector though staff shortages caused by Omicron.
“Driver safety must not be compromised. Drivers should not be expected to drive whilst tired, and employers remain responsible for the health and safety of their employees and other road users.”
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