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Unite HGV drivers take a break to restore ‘safety, decency and dignity’ to job
Unite called on its HGV driver members to take part in its campaign for safety, decency and dignity to be restored to lorry driving in the UK. A meeting called by Unite’s leadership at the policy conference in Liverpool in October announced the union’s backing for the drivers’ grassroots campaign (#TruckedOff), set up to encourage drivers to take their statutory rest break at 11 am on Monday, November 1. Called Take a Break the date was chosen as the statutory right will be axed after another expected extension by the government to the daily hours’ drivers can work. Unite’s driver members have called the repeated extensions irresponsible and quite possibly illegal. They are also counter-productive, as the moves will exhaust the present workforce and deter others from joining.
"HGV drivers are sick and tired, sick and tired of poor pay, no pensions and longer working hours. Truck stops in this country are a disgrace and the fantasy salaries being reported are a myth"
Tony Woodhouse, Unite chair and ex-HGV driver
‘Time for action not words’
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham recently convened a cross-industry meeting of professional drivers, bringing together drivers from across the economy, including from the food, warehousing and fuel sectors. Sharon Graham has committed Unite to a resourced, long-term plan to drive up pay and conditions across the sector, vowing that it is time for “action, not words”. Leading the Liverpool meeting of Unite drivers and supporters, Unite chair and former HGV driver, Tony Woodhouse said, “HGV drivers are sick and tired, sick and tired of poor pay, no pensions and longer working hours. Truck stops in this country are a disgrace and the fantasy salaries being reported are a myth.” He urged “drivers to park up at 11 am on November 1. By taking their legal break, they will highlight that nothing is being done to address the dreadful employment conditions in a sector that's at the heart of our economy. “Skilled drivers have walked away from this industry and nobody will replace them unless and until safety, decency and dignity are restored to driving in this country,” he continued. “We look across the Channel and see drivers better paid and better treated, and we want that for drivers here. Unite will not stop until we have fixed this broken industry.” Unite is also launching its call for sectoral bargaining to be restored to the professional driving sector. This will bring stability to a ‘cut-throat' industry where pay, conditions and life on the road have steadily worsened. The country is now at least 100,000 drivers short with no reduction in that number on the horizon. “Sector bargaining is the norm in sectors right across the economy, from the NHS to local government to construction. It is seen as a sensible way to maintain standards and keep a sector stable,” commented Unite shop steward and HGV driver Davy McCord.
"The only people who benefit from the present chaos are the cowboys. As the Netherlands’ experience shows, decent employers value a system that pays the rate for the job"
Davy McCord, Unite shop steward and HGV driver
‘Cut throat and unstable’
He added, “HGV and professional driving in this country badly and urgently need to embrace this model too. It is cut-throat, unstable and lurching from crisis to crisis. Only with a firm floor to prevent pay, pensions and conditions being under persistent attack can we bring some order to the chaos in this sector. “The only people who benefit from the present chaos are the cowboys. As the Netherlands’ experience shows, decent employers value a system that pays the rate for the job.” Unite has produced a briefing, Bringing order to chaos. “The biggest problem is the lack of decent facilities. I sleep in my cab four nights a week. The facilities we’re expected to use are just disgusting – blocked toilets, not enough working showers. Some don’t even have hot water,” stated one driver. “At one place there are just two toilets for 120 drivers. You can imagine the state of them. Thurrock Moto services has got to be the worst – filthy and disgusting – there’s human waste in the car park. I used to work in Europe, and one of the main reasons I went is because the facilities for drivers are so much better over there,” said HGV driver Neil. Another driver, Alan, said, “Those headline figures about what lorry drivers could earn now? Forget it. When you see what you’ve actually got to do to achieve those rates of pay, you’d be in the morgue before you know it. And so would a few other people that you would have taken out along with you when you crash.”
Unite’s drivers’ manifesto
Unite’s HGV drivers’ campaign briefing 'Bringing order to chaos '
The anger and frustration among HGV drivers is set out vividly by Unite in a film which can be viewed here.
TAKING THEIR BREAKS
And on November 1, at 11 am Unite drivers parked up and took their rightful break time. Some even took off their shoes to really relax – we have some drivers’ pictures from Facebook below
"Those headline figures about what lorry drivers could earn now? Forget it. When you see what you’ve actually got to do to achieve those rates of pay, you’d be in the morgue before you know it"
Alan, HGV driver
HGV DRIVER SHORTAGE FACT
There are more qualified drivers in the UK than the sector needs – many qualified drivers have left and failed to return because the of the job’s current appalling conditions
AND THE FIGHT GOES ON
And the campaign doesn’t stop there. In Parliament the Transport Select Committee will hold an inquiry into Road Freight Logistics. The first Public Session with witnesses will be on November 24 at 9.30 am. Unite will be submitting evidence.
By uniteEXTRA team
World Toilet Day 19 November, 2021
The average person has to use the toilet between 4 and 10 times a day. Being at work shouldn't mean you can't go.
Unite demands toilet dignity for all UK workers.
Join the campaign here: