The Timber Packaging & Pallet Confederation (TIMCON) has called for the government to help it address acute labor shortages across the UK.
TIMCON is the acknowledged representative body of the UK and Republic of Ireland wooden pallet and packaging industry, encompassing manufacturers, the four major pallet pooling companies, and most sawmills that supply the industry from UK and Ireland and suppliers to the industry such as kiln and composite block manufacturers. The group’s members manufacture 70 percent of the UK’s 43 million new pallets every year; they use around one million cubic meters of wood, representing between 25 and 30% of the UK’s sawmilling production.
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 UK 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 EU sources including Latvia, Poland and Romania. Since the conclusion of Brexit on January 1, availability 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. The wooden packaging and pallet industry is a significant employer, which is crucial to the UK sawmill industry and forestry sector as a market for timber produced from small logs and falling boards from larger logs.
“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.”