A McDonalds restaurant in central London on September 4, 2017 (AFP / Tolga AKMEN)
From supermarkets to restaurants to factories, shortages are worsening in the UK amid supply problems generated by Brexit and the pandemic, with bosses urging the government to act, especially in the run-up to the holidays of Christmas.
American burger king McDonald’s announced on Tuesday that it could no longer offer milkshakes or bottled drinks in Britain for now and rival KFC has also warned of some items missing from its menu.
Restaurant chain Nando’s was forced last week to close some 50 restaurants due to a lack of chicken. The problem is also affecting high-end Novikov restaurants, which are short of Wagyu beef.
Among distributors, the Iceland chain and its rival Co-Op also deplore products missing from their shelves.
A Nando’s restaurant in central London on September 11, 2019 (AFP / Tolga AKMEN)
In the industry, auto factories had to take a break from production due to shortages of electronic components, which in July resulted in car sales falling by almost 30% while production fell. at its lowest since the 1950s.
SMEs are not left out, especially in construction, some find themselves short of materials in addition to a lack of workers.
The CBI, the main British employers ‘organization, argues for its part that distributors’ stocks have been at record low levels for nearly 40 years.
– Exodus of foreign workers –
Supply problems have plagued British businesses for several months now and threaten to weigh on the economic recovery.
They are aggravated by Brexit, which came into force on January 1, which makes it difficult for workers from the European Union to enter the United Kingdom.
The latter constitute the bulk of the workforce of logistics companies, the British shunning these trades with long working hours for unattractive wages.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which for months plagued activity in distribution, logistics, transport, catering, among others, has accentuated the exodus of foreign workers while a number of employees put on short-time work or dismissed have sought work elsewhere.
An Iceland supermarket in Deeside, Wales immortalized during a visit by Prince Charles (right), July 5, 2021 (POOL / Christopher Furlong)
Jonathan Portes, professor at King’s College London, remarks that these covid-related disruptions are being seen “across Europe” but that in the UK the situation has been made worse by the “impact of Brexit” because many workers from the European Union “have not returned and may not want to return. The post-Brexit immigration system could also disrupt the recruitment methods” of companies.
The British Distribution Federation (BRC) warns that the situation could worsen from October, when the United Kingdom brings into force new post-Brexit checks on animal products imported from the United Kingdom. ‘European Union.
“Christmas supplies are on their way and many companies are struggling to reserve seats on ships” especially those from China, which remains the main delivery route for manufactured goods, observes Jonathan Owens, logistics expert from the University of Salford.
Businesses are trying to adapt. Supermarket giant Tesco and e-commerce giant Amazon do not hesitate to promise hiring bonuses in the UK, in order to attract the drivers or storekeepers they need to serve their customers.
Partly empty shelves in a Tesco supermarket in London on July 22, 2021 (AFP / JUSTIN TALLIS)
The meat industries are considering partnerships with prisons to make certain prisoners work for their reintegration.
Industry representatives and business leaders are increasingly pressing the government to amend post-Brexit immigration regulations so that foreign truck drivers, especially from European countries east, can more easily travel to the UK.
Some are asking in particular that they be able to benefit from the immigration facilities granted to skilled workers, like the boss of the Iceland supermarkets.
Truck drivers “should be replaced by British drivers, but it will take time” to train them, and “before that, we have a lot of products to ship for Christmas,” warns chain boss Richard Walker.
“Nobody wants to spend a second rotten Christmas!”, He insists, referring to the confinement of last year, and the risk this year of a tree or tables of baldness for the holidays.
ved / jbo / nth