The British Timber Packaging & Pallet Confederation (TIMCON) has called for the government to help it address acute labour shortages across the U.K.
In a letter to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, TIMCON president John Dye said a lack of staff in the pallet and packaging sector is “impacting severely on the transportation of essential goods and other U.K. supply chains, with delivery delays and…empty retail shelves.”
A continual supply of new repaired wooden pallets is vital to the supply of categories such as food, drink, and pharmaceuticals, including Covid vaccines.
The pallet and packaging sector employs workers from E.U. countries including Latvia, Poland and Romania. Since the conclusion of Brexit on January 1, 2021, availability of labour from these countries has decreased dramatically, which, added to staff shortages caused by Covid, is having a serious impact on the industry’s production and repair capacity.
Dye called for the government to urgently roll out a solution like the Seasonal Workers scheme, which allows the horticultural sector to recruit from overseas on a temporary but regular basis.
“It is really frustrating that, despite the recognition of the wooden pallet and packaging sector’s essential role in keeping supply chains moving, there is no assistance for us in recruiting staff during this difficult time,” said Dye.
“We are calling on the government to review this situation as a matter of urgency and roll out a similar scheme to the Seasonal Workers programme. Without this, this situation will become more serious, particularly in the run up to Christmas.”
TIMCON represents the U.K. and Republic of Ireland wooden pallet and packaging industry, including manufacturers, the four major pallet pooling companies, and most sawmills who supply the industry from U.K. and Ireland, and suppliers to the industry such as kiln and composite block manufacturers.
The association’s members manufacture 70 percent of the U.K.’s 43 million new pallets every year using around a million cubic metres of wood, representing between 25 and 30 percent of the U.K.’s sawmilling production.