UNION bosses have been accused of “taking Christmas hostage” after threatening to organize mass truck strikes.
Unite, the UK’s largest union, is demanding higher wages and better conditions for truck drivers.
The group is threatening to launch the largest truck strike since the Winter of Discontent in 1979, known for widespread strikes.
It comes amid fears that families may have difficulty with their Christmas shopping due to the famine.
And the British were devastated by a spiral of queues for gasoline, due to the lack of truckers carrying fuel.
Now bosses say the supply chain crisis has given union-backed HGV drivers the “power” to hold the country for ransom.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation accused unions of threatening to “take Christmas hostage”, adding that any mass strike would “harm the work being done to restore supply chains at this crucial time of year.”
Unite is calling for “fair pay” for long-serving drivers, as new drivers are offered salaries of up to £50,000 a year.
They are also calling for an end to temporary rules that allow drivers to work up to 10 hours a day.
Unite road transport national official Adrian Jones, who represents about 50,000 HGV drivers, said drivers had requested “firm commitment” from the Government to provide clean restrooms and dining facilities and more truck stops.
he said Telegram: “Our members need appropriate facilities, fair pay and respect. Heavy truck drivers are the blood in the body of our economy. If the government and employers refuse to do what is necessary, we will not hesitate to cut that supply.
“We have conveyed this to the ministers and officials many times, but they did not make a firm commitment even though they knew what to do,” he said.
He said the law currently prevents Unite from launching a national strike, as unions are required to register disputes with individual employers.
If we don’t get those commitments from the government and employers, we’re now looking at coordinated strikes before January. We will not shy away from it,” he said.
“Obviously the fragility of the supply chain is an opportunity for us. Our members are now in the driver’s seat. They have the power. So they are more confident and bold in their demands.”
It came after just 20 HGV licenses were issued to EU workers to help change the UK’s massive cargo backlog.
Tory president Oliver Dowden said only 300 applications have been submitted so far by European workers.
Home Secretary Kevin Foster also announced in a letter to all MPs that it will take three weeks or 15 working days to process each application.
This is despite the Government’s promise to issue an extra 5,000 EU visas to aid the flow of goods.
Sun understands that in Felixstowe, Suffolk, there is a massive backlog of 54,000 HGV applications contributing to the backlog, causing cargo to be diverted to other ports.
The British Port Authority policy director, Mark Simmonds, said the driver crisis could last up to nine months.
But he said it’s unlikely to affect Christmas drastically as there’s still time for the goods to arrive.