John Lewis Raises Truck Drivers’ Pay as Shortage Fears Mount
(Bloomberg) -- John Lewis Partnership plans to raise truck drivers’ salaries and offer a sign-on bonus for new hires as retailers compete to attract workers amid a growing labor shortage in the U.K.
The owner of John Lewis department store and upmarket grocer Waitrose said drivers will earn two pounds more per hour amounting to an annual salary boost of up to 5,000 pounds ($6,953), in a statement on Wednesday. About 900 drivers will benefit from the pay hike starting Aug. 8, while new hires will be offered a 1,000 pounds “welcome payment.”
The retailer, a favorite among middle-class Britons, is also setting up a driver training program to allow current employees and new recruits to learn to operate heavy vehicles.
“We’re responding quickly to the national driver shortage by ensuring our drivers are paid competitively and by investing in training for the future,” said Mark Robinson, the Director of Supply Chain for the John Lewis Partnership.
The trucker shortage, which stands at more than 100,000 according to the Road Haulage Association, has forced many retailers and logistics companies to introduce sign-on bonuses in an effort to attract drivers who have either retired or are newly licensed but unemployed.
Tesco announced a 1,000 pounds starting bonus last week while Marks & Spencer logistic’s partner Gist World is offering a 2,000 pounds welcome to fill 200 vacancies. To retain its current workforce, Gist, which provides logistics services to more than 16 U.K. retailers, is also paying a retention bonus, the company said in an emailed statement.
The rush to entice workers is indicative of the wider labor shortages hurting business in the U.K following an exodus of EU labor after Brexit and further exacerbated by the pandemic with hundreds of thousands of individuals forced to isolate because of exposure to Covid-19.
While companies are coming up with incentives they ultimately cannot plug the hole in the labour market and additional government support is needed including “tackling the barriers within the UK’s new immigration rules,” said Tamara Hill, an Employment Policy Adviser at the British Retail Consortium.
Some trade unions have asked the government to consider issuing seasonal visas to truck drivers to deal with the shortages.
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