Britain’s labor shortage has increased workers’ influence


Supply chain update

British supermarkets are in trouble for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic Keep their shelves replenished. Fast food chain Nando’s had to Close 45 restaurants Because of the chicken shortage; McDonald’s is Less milkshake. Supermarket owner Already warned A possible shortage at Christmas. Supply chain bottlenecks are partly due to labor shortages-especially truck drivers. Some reasons are short-term. But the long-term transformation that is at work may have a profound impact-shifting the balance of bargaining power from capital to labor.

The shortage of workers is not just a problem in Britain. According to reports, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and similar industries are also experiencing squeeze: hotel, distribution, construction, health and social care. Compared with some EU neighbors, the United Kingdom has indeed suffered an earlier and greater surge in Delta variant infections. The “plague” in which workers were forced to self-isolate after contact with infected persons coincided with school holidays, resulting in an abnormally high rate of absenteeism. However, many of the factors contributing to the employment contraction are the same as those in the EU and the United States.

After a long period of lockdown, multiple departments are reopening and re-hiring at the same time. Fast replenishment puts additional pressure on distribution. During the lockdown, some expanding industries, such as online retailing and grocery trade, sucked workers out of the hotel industry. The pandemic has caused some workers to reconsider their priorities and withdraw from difficult, low-paying jobs.

As economic growth and wage growth have attracted some people to return home, the migration of migrant workers from Central and Eastern Europe to the richer West has begun to reverse the situation before Covid.However, although exact data are scarce, it is estimated that the pandemic has prompted There are hundreds of thousands to return To Poland, Lithuania and other places.National Bureau of Statistics estimated Compared with the same period last year, the number of EU nationals working in the UK decreased by 364,000 in the third quarter of 2020; some estimates are Much higher.

However, for the UK, Brexit has exacerbated the impact of capital outflows. EU nationals applying for “residential status” can return if they wish. But now that the transition period after Brexit is over, the end of free movement means that others cannot return without a work visa. Remains believe that this is a negative result of Brexit. Many Brexit supporters may be more relaxed; in 2016, it was believed that too many jobs flowed to overseas workers, which depressed wages and expanded the Brexit vote.

To ease the shortage, the Boris Johnson government is under pressure from industry leaders to issue more visas to EU drivers and farm workers.But its political promise Low immigration Limits its leeway-and with a large number of job vacancies across the EU, it is not clear how many Bulgarians or Romanians are prepared to cope with the additional bureaucracy that comes with coming to the UK. When there are shortages in other sectors, the government needs answers-for example, in social care in winter.

In the long run, if there is no large-scale special visa program or a broad labor mobility agreement with the EU, filling vacancies will mean that British workers must be provided with better pay and conditions. Where technology cannot be replaced, training must be expanded to provide the required skills, from pipelines to transportation. Over time, this may push the government’s “upgrade” agenda. But this may also mean that consumers need to pay higher shopping expenses and need to devote more resources to education. Soon, these are the trade-offs that the government needs to explain to voters.



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