FTA warns that the UK's freight sector could 'grind to a halt' without European workers

28 / 06 / 2017

The UK's Freight Transport Association (FTA) has warned that the country's freight and logistics sector could "grind to a halt" without European workers.

The organisation issued the warning days after the UK government announced its approach to allowing already resident European workers to stay in the country after its exit from the European Union (EU).

The FTA pointed out that EU workers make up 26% of warehouse operatives and 13% of HGV drivers in the country, with 2.45m people working in the freight and logistics sector countrywide.

The FTA said that while the government’s policy paper provides a starting point for the rights of these workers to live and work in the UK after Brexit, it would like to see urgent clarification on the timings involved for the introduction of new workers’ rights.

The association is petitioning the government to ensure that the application process for EU citizens is as seamless as possible and prevent a lack of available skilled staff leading to avoidable delays in services.

“The government’s announcement on the rights of EU workers to remain and work in the UK is a welcome first step in enabling businesses to plan and manage their workforces,” said Pauline Bastidon, head of European policy at the FTA.

“But there is still much to be done to ensure that logistics companies are not left stranded, without the skilled workforce required to keep Britain’s trade moving nationwide, and across borders to other nations.”

“These EU workers are crucial to the success of the UK’s logistics industry – and thus to the success of the nation’s economy as a whole.  With insufficient homegrown workers currently available, the government needs to give careful consideration to how vacancies could be filled in the short and long term, to ensure that Britain keeps on trading, both domestically and internationally.”

According to the Government’s proposal, workers who have been living continuously in the UK for five years will be able to apply to stay in the country indefinitely through settled status.

The FTA would like clarification on the cut-off date for arrivals to the country who have not been resident for five years.

“The logistics industry needs and deserves to employ the very best candidates while it trains up the next generation of employees, and it will need government support to ensure that the country’s trading routes do not grind to a halt when the changes are made."