#TruckedOff Union backs grassroots campaign to restore ‘safety, decency and dignity’ to HGV drivers’ working life

Unite the Union is mobilising lorry drivers to fight back.

The HGV driver shortage on Britain’s roads is fundamentally about working conditions and rights. These essential workers – critical to every aspect of our economy – are now organising to end generations of injustice.

At its conference in Liverpool, Unite the Union has declared its backing for the grassroots #TruckedOff campaign. The union is calling for the reintroduction of modern sectional bargaining committees. This would see unions and bosses negotiating minimum rates and working conditions for the job that can be enforced across the sector.

The campaign is asking HGV drivers to take their statutory break at 11am on Monday 1st November. The date is likely to see the introduction of yet another government attack on safety, raising the weekly hours limit for drivers.

Unite’s chair and former HGV driver, Tony Woodhouse said: “HGV drivers are sick and tired, sick and tired of poor pay, no pensions and longer working hours. Truck stops in this country are a disgrace and the fantasy salaries being reported are a myth.

“Drivers are urged to park up at 11am on Monday 1 November. By taking their legal break, they will highlight that nothing is being done to address the dreadful employment conditions in a sector that’s at the heart of our economy.

“Skilled drivers have walked away from this industry and nobody will replace them unless and until safety, decency and dignity are restored to driving in this country.

“We look across the Channel and see drivers better paid and better treated, and we want that for drivers here. Unite will not stop until we have fixed this broken industry.”

Photo Rab Lawrence Flickr

Supporting EU workers’ rights, building a powerful labour movement

Migrant workers have said a resounding “no” to the government’s derisory HGV workers’ visa (just 20 have taken up jobs, with only 300 applying for a scheme that aimed to put 5k new workers on our roads). Many have argued working conditions across Europe are far better than the UK. As we’ve discussed on Brexit Spotlight (here and here), the visa offers no security of immigration status, leaving workers’ vulnerable to even more super exploitation as companies scramble to meet demand. The policy shows that the government is still in denial about the causes of the crisis. They favour reduced-rights and longer working hours, rather than addressing poor pay and conditions.

Fundamentally, migrants and British nationals working in the sector have the same interests.

That’s why its so encouraging to see Unite also back more support for EU workers living in the UK. Its conference committed the union, “to adopt or maintain policies and support campaigns around the post-Brexit settlement which do not prejudice or jeopardise the ongoing workplace rights of EU27 citizens in the UK”.

Motivating the resolution on the conference floor, Unite member John Stuttle, said:

“The overwhelming majority of those six million EU citizens are workers, not least in areas we keep hearing are facing serious labour shortages: agriculture, construction, health care, hospitality and road haulage amongst others.

“Many of those workers are trade unionists. Many are members of Unite and some of them are delegates to this conference. The government is trying to persuade lorry drivers from Europe to help with the supply chain crisis by offering a three month work permit in the run up to Christmas. After that they have to leave again. This shows the way things are going.

“EU workers increasingly finding their employment is directly tied to their immigration status. Employers know that their employees will be compliant and won’t challenge poor working conditions and low pay, if losing their job means they could lose their right to remain in the UK.

“And we all know that when employers succeed in getting away with something with a vulnerable group of workers, it is a practice run for attacks on more secure workers.

“As union members, whatever our citizenship, we stand together.”