Take a break

Unite backs HGV drivers to ‘Take a Break’ in bid to restore ‘safety, decency and dignity' to job

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In a nationwide driver action set for November 1, Unite has called for sector bargaining to bring order to chaos in the lorry driver industry.

The country’s leading union for HGV drivers has lent its support to a campaign by HGV drivers for safety, decency and dignity to be restored to lorry driving in the UK.

A meeting called by Unite’s leadership at its conference in Liverpool announced the union’s backing for the drivers’ grassroots campaign (#TruckedOff) set up to encourage drivers to take their statutory rest break at 11am on Monday, November 1.

The date for Take a Break has been chosen as it will fall 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.

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’s 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.

“Drivers are urged to park up at 11am on Monday, 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,” he added.

“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,” Woodhouse 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.”

The union 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.

Davy McCord, HGV driver and Unite shop steward, added, “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.

“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,” McCord noted.

“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.”

In the Unite briefing, Bringing order to chaos, drivers state, “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.

Recounting his horrific experiences with facilities, HGV driver and Unite member Neil said, “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.”

Commenting on recent reports of rises in pay for lorry drivers in response to the labour shortages, HGV driver and Unite member 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.”

The anger and frustration among HGV drivers is set out vividly by Unite in a new film which can be viewed here.

By UniteLive team

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