The government should create a “Covid Recovery Visa” to tackle the labour shortage affecting HGV drivers and crippling supply chains, London mayor Sadiq Khan has said.
Khan called for time-limited visas for foreign workers to maintain critical supply chains and services in the wake of Brexit and pandemic disruption.
The call comes after the British Retail Consortium warned the UK risked offshoring food production into Europe unless immigration rules were changed and access to labour improved.
Supply chains in many sectors and thousands of businesses have struggled with a shortage of workers following Brexit, with many EU nationals returning to their country of birth.
This week Ocado became the latest UK company to offer signing-on bonuses to attract delivery drivers amid mass shortages.
The Office for National Statistics today reported shortages of supply chain staff and increased shipping costs, coupled with demand increases following the lifting of lockdowns, were driving food price inflation.
Khan said temporary visas, along with devolved immigration powers and an extension of the Youth Mobility Scheme to EU nationals, would help maintain critical services while UK workers were recruited and trained.
The mayor said he hoped as the economy continued to reopen, many workers from European countries with status under the EU Settlement Scheme would come back to London. He also said he would use London’s Adult Education Budget to provide skills support to industries experiencing major staffing shortages, including construction and hospitality.
The nationwide shortage of HGV drivers was currently disrupting supply chains for the capital’s wider food and hospitality industry, he added.
Speaking at Bloomberg’s The Future of Global Financial Centres – The New London forum, the mayor said: “Given the urgency and the scale of the challenge, I’m calling on the government to change its immigration system so that it meets our economic needs and helps our businesses.
“This must include introducing a Covid Recovery Visa to help attract international workers into key roles to support our economic recovery. London has unique needs when it comes to attracting workers from around the world, and so a more tailored, dynamic approach is urgently required.”
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