Binmen are being headhunted and poached by desperate HGV firms to plug a shortfall of more than 100,000 lorry drivers that has emptied Britain's shelves amid an ongoing supply chain crisis.
A lack of lorry drivers and food processors in Britain has been partly blamed on the new Brexit visa regime introduced on January 1, which penalises lower-skilled migrants in favour of those with qualifications.
But global factors are relevant too, bosses say, including Chinese port closures and a lack of shipping containers during the Covid pandemic - as well as the cancellation of HGV tests during the crisis.
With shop shelves emptied, local councils now claim refuse workers are being approached to fill the shortage, where starting jobs now start at around £50,000 as demand outstrips supply.
However, officials have warned that bin and recycling staff are being recruited live on their rounds - which they fear may disrupt collections and lead to an increased volume of uncollected waste.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Tony Wilkinson from the North Somerset Environment Company told the BBC it lost five employees in the past two weeks and said 'a lot of drivers are getting poached' with offers from big companies.
Councillor Mike Solomon, North Somerset Council's cabinet member responsible for waste, said one of its drivers was poached last week after working for the company for eleven years - and offered a 10 per cent hike in earnings.
'We really couldn't ask for a more dedicated team out on the rounds and I am very grateful to all of them for everything they've been doing,' he told the broadcaster.
Binmen are being headhunted and poached by desperate HGV firms to plug a shortfall of more than 100,000 lorry drivers that has emptied Britain's shelves amid an ongoing supply chain crisis (file photo)
The supply of popular Christmas products is likely to be hit by domestic labour shortages and issues with global shipping
Lorries are seen at an HGV parking, at Cobham services on the M25 motorway, Cobham
Ministers today announced a further delay to the introduction of full post-Brexit import checks on goods coming to the UK from the EU as they try to prevent border chaos.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Lord Frost, the Cabinet Office Minister, said full import controls will now be phased in across 2022 to give businesses more time to recover from the coronavirus crisis.
The UK was supposed to be introducing a fresh wave of border rules on imports of animal origin and certain foods from next month.
There were fears the added paperwork would hammer firms as they try to get back on their feet and concerns the red tape would combine with ongoing HGV driver shortages to cause food supply chain disruption over the Christmas period.
Business chiefs welcomed the 'sensible' decision but warned they 'want certainty' from ministers about how the new regime will work and guarantees that the rollout will go smoothly.
'But the staff shortages - caused predominantly by the widespread shortage of HGV drivers - have reached the level where we know we are not going to have enough people available to provide the garden waste service for the next two weeks.
'HGV driver recruitment is an issue affecting the whole country with the Road Haulage Association estimating a shortfall of 100,000 drivers nationally.
'We are working hard to find ways to remedy the crisis locally and will have a clearer picture on compensation for our customers and what we'll do to mitigate further impacts within the next two weeks.
'However, this situation will not be resolved quickly without government intervention which is why we are also lobbying our MPs and ministers to fix things. I'm sorry that this temporary interruption to the service will inconvenience people.'
The Government has announced that up to 50,000 more HGV driving tests will be made available each year by shortening the application process and the tests themselves.
It is hoped this will tackle the driver shortage problem which has hit the supply of food, petrol and other goods across the UK.
Whitehall insiders remain confident people will be able to enjoy 'a normal Christmas' with fully-stocked shelves in the shops.
Boris Johnson's spokesman dismissed doomsday predictions from industry insiders, who warned that the days of customers getting whatever they want, whenever they want, are over.
It comes as Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, warned an event delegation organised by the Institute for Government that consumers should expect 'permanent shortages' in the supermarkets.
Industry figures have pinned the problems on a shortage of lorry drivers and food processing staff due to Brexit and Covid, which has seen foreign workers go home to be with their families and increased waiting times for receiving HGV licenses.
Addressing the supply chain issues, Mr Wright said: 'It's going to get worse, and it's not going to get better after getting worse any time soon.'
Speaking to listeners at an event organised by the Institute for Government, he added: 'The result of the labour shortages is that the just-in-time system that has sustained supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants - so the food has arrived on shelf or in the kitchen, just when you need it - is no longer working.
'And I don't think it will work again, I think we will see we are now in for permanent shortages.'
Whitehall insiders remain confident people will be able to enjoy 'a normal Christmas' with fully-stocked shelves in the shops. Pictured: A barren-looking shelf in Tesco, West Kensington