Granting European lorry drivers temporary visas to help plug the HGV driver shortage would be nothing more than a sticking plaster, Unite warned this week.

The union called instead for the logistics industry to boost driver pay rates to solve the crisis.

Unite was responding to reports last week that the government may be considering changing immigration rules to make it easier for UK companies to recruit lorry drivers from overseas.

The union, which represents thousands of lorry drivers, said the solution lies in the hands of the logistics industry, and called on operators to eliminate low pay rates and tackle poor working conditions and inferior welfare facilities.

If government does decide to issue temporary visas to European drivers, as a short term fix, Unite is demanding that safeguards be put in place to prevent workers being exploited, with workers directly employed by hauliers rather than via employment agencies.

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In a statement the union said: “Drivers should be recruited on contracts of a decent duration, pay rates should be in line with existing workers and they should not be forced to pay excessive fees for accommodation or travel.

Unite national officer for road transport, Adrian Jones, added: “Proposals to recruit mainly eastern European drivers to solve the lorry driver shortage risks recreating the errors that have caused the crisis in the first place. At best it is a sticking plaster and at worst there is a danger it could make a bad situation worse.

“Workers are voting with their feet and leaving the profession due to low pay. If employers think they can bring in drivers from Europe to suppress wages this will only make the problem worse.

"Lorry driving is a highly skilled, stressful and demanding profession. Unless workers are properly paid then they are not going to be willing to undertake this work.

“If the government does allow companies to recruit lorry drivers this must be contingent on them following strict rules in order to ensure that workers are not exploited as cheap labour.”

Last month Unite launched a seven-point manifesto, aimed at tackling the industry’s driver shortage and plugging a 76,000-strong skills gap, which listed low pay as the key issue, along with outsourcing and “an unhealthy reliance on agency drivers and bogus self-employment”.