This week, fast food chain McDonald’s made a definitive announcement in the UK: it ran out of resources to produce milkshakes in 1,250 units across the country.
But this news is just a symptom of a larger problem: the UK’s supply chain crisis.
It is estimated that the transportation sector alone needs to fill about 100,000 vacancies to meet the demand that exists in the country. He was warned that if the government did nothing about it, there could be a shortage in most supermarkets.
And it’s not just about the transport sector: The British Association of Independent Meat Producers said this week it had asked the Department of Justice to increase the quota of prisoners allowed to be assigned to meat processing jobs to meet its demand.
They argue that they have about 14,000 vacancies that they cannot fill.
The association’s Tony Goodger told Britain’s Guardian newspaper: “The industry is having a hard time finding people to fill these vacancies. Many of our partners have hired prisoners on special permits, but this is not enough.”
“And the ministry told us that they had a huge demand, and that we had already reached our quota of prisoners that we could employ,” he adds.
But what are the causes of this crisis?
The perfect storm caused by Brexit, the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, and the Covid-19 pandemic could be part of the solution.
To understand the problem, we can focus our attention on the sector most affected: transportation.
In early August, the Road Transport Association (RHA) issued a warning: 100,000 truck drivers are needed to meet market demand.
The UK had just lifted all the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, and the economy was starting to restart, but when it came to meeting demand, the problems started.
There are several reasons behind the exacerbation of the deficiency. First, the Covid-19 pandemic bears part of the responsibility.
With travel restrictions increasing in the past year and much of the economy shutting down, many European drivers have returned home.
The carriers indicated that very few of them returned.
In addition, the pandemic has also caused significant delays in the tests that drivers of heavy vehicles take to obtain a license, making it impossible to have enough new drivers behind the wheel.
Carriers’ associations sent a letter in June to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, saying 25,000 fewer people had been tested, compared to the previous year.
Before the pandemic changed everything in March 2020, Brexit had taken effect a few months earlier – and that kind of inconvenience was already starting to emerge.
According to the transport associations themselves, Brexit was one of the reasons why many drivers with European citizenship returned to their countries of origin or decided to work elsewhere.
When the UK was part of the European Union’s single market, drivers could come and go as they pleased.
But the post-Brexit border bureaucracy made it very difficult for most of them to get in and out of the UK – and they preferred to stay in business in the European bloc countries.
As stated, drivers are paid by the miles, not by the hour – so delays cost them money.
Driver Shauna Harnett says the issue of the hours is putting off some potential new drivers.
She told the BBC: “A lot of people will say money isn’t enough for the job it is. I’ve never had a problem with money, but the hours are the main thing that makes it important.”
These same reasons also cause labor shortages in other sectors.
For example, the British Poultry Council warned that one in six jobs, nearly 7,000 vacancies, were not filled due to workers returning from the European Union.
And that this situation may affect the display of turkey at Christmas, which is the main dish of celebration in many British homes.
Not only did meat processors have to hire inmates and ex-convicts to meet demand this year, but the hospitality industry has found itself in trouble getting staff for its businesses.
We are talking about the UK’s third largest private sector employer.
According to the Office for National Statistics, as of June, there were about 102 thousand jobs in the sector, which is an increase of 12.1% compared to 91 thousand jobs in the same period in 2019.
For many experts in the restaurant and hospitality industry, the pandemic has exposed the fragility of the work of many of its employees – Image: Getty Images via BBC
Now, the analysis by experts is that the impact of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic in this region is of a different nature: people who stopped working in this sector realized that other jobs paid better, and they did not return.
Matt Sheels-Jones, a hotel manager in Manchester, told the BBC: “Brexit and the pandemic have certainly affected business. But the truth is that salaries in the hotel and restaurant sector have not been the best for many years.”
He adds, “Workers who left the industry during Covid-19 realized that ‘the grass is a little greener on the other side’, after finding better-paying vacancies and fewer hours in other jobs.”
The most urgent measures have been taken, especially with regard to the transport sector, to avert the shortage.
The British government has announced a relaxation of working hours rules for drivers, which means they will be able to increase the daily driving limit from nine hours to 11 hours twice a week.
A government spokesperson said: “This will allow drivers of heavy vehicles to travel a bit longer, but should only be used when necessary and should not compromise driver safety.”
The temporary extension of the drivers’ journey continues until October 3.
Regarding sectors such as meat and poultry, the government also announced that measures will be taken to expand the training program in prisons in the country.
The program allows inmates to train in professionally managed prison kitchens for up to 35 hours per week while searching for professional qualifications to help them find jobs abroad.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said it would support “all sectors with a shortage of qualified cadres, wherever possible”.
“Helping inmates find work during their sentence and after their release makes them less likely to repeat offence.”
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