The call for a nationwide HGV driver strike on the 23rd of August from a 3,300+ member Facebook group called ‘HGV drivers on STRIKE United Kingdom’ has prompted a response from industry bodies such as the RHA and Logistics UK.
The post urged all HGV drivers to join the protest effort against “massive exploitation,” providing a list of concerns which include a lack of adequate investment in driver facilities, an increasing level of restrictions and responsibilities, and long, unsociable hours in return for low wages. It asks drivers to “stay at home and make a stand in your living room.” Suggested demands include (but are not limited to) a £15 an hour minimum wage for HGV drivers, a 45-hour week plus paid breaks, and an end to self-employment status.
The reaction from other drivers in the industry is a mixed one, with some online drivers from forums such as TruckNet expressing doubt that a strike will find enough support. One commentator pointed out the diverse needs of employees in the sector. “For every driver who is happy with the earnings from a 40-hour week, there is a tramper who needs 78 hours a week just to pay off the interest on their debts every week.” Others on the site raised the concern that a strike in the midst of the existing driver shortage (and the temporary trade difficulties around Brexit agreements) could turn the general public against drivers.
The RHA has echoed some of these concerns in a recent statement on the matter, with the RHA’s MD of policy and public affairs Rod McKenzie calling a strike “unhelpful and counterproductive” – as it would inevitably put more pressure on the drivers who chose not to take part, exacerbating shortages – while acknowledging the “grievances of many drivers in terms of pay and conditions.”
Logistics UK stated that they “… will not condone any action which threatens the integrity of the UK’s supply chain,” in a recent statement to motortransport.co.uk and went on to say, “But we understand the concerns of those who have worked so hard throughout the pandemic, and are now being placed under even greater pressure as a result of self-isolation and holiday absences.”
Logistics UK’s Alex Veitch, general manager of public policy, has urged the UK government to do more to help. He pointed to the Seasonal Worker Scheme that was put in place for agricultural workers as a viable template for allowing EU drivers to return to work in the UK, while the DVSA works through its outstanding backlog of HGV driver tests.
“Logistics workers, and particularly HGV drivers, have acted as the engine room of the UK’s economy throughout the pandemic, keeping homes and businesses supplied with what they need.” he states. “Without an interim solution while new drivers are recruited, trained and tested, the current problems experienced across the country with out-of-stock items will continue. There are simply not enough qualified personnel available to do the jobs we rely on every day – we urge the government to be pragmatic and rethink its refusal to allow temporary visas for the sake of the UK economy.”