Brexit-backing Next boss calls for speedy government intervention in staff crisis
Next, headed by Brexit-backing boss Lord Wolfson, has called on the government to relax immigration rules to ensure its operations run smoothly this Christmas.
“It’s a question of availability, we need a system that’s geared up to give more visas,” Wolfson told CityAM.
Wolfson hit back at critics who said the country had got what it signed up for by voting for Brexit.
“I don’t think [the staffing crisis] is what we signed up for. We signed up for having control over our immigration policy. The only decision was that our British government should decide what the imigration policy should be.
“My worry is that if this discussion turns into an argument about Brexit, we are going to end up with the same divisive debate we had in the run up to that vote.”
The Conservative peer said “finger pointing and blame” was not helpful.
“We need a demand led system. The current system clearly isn’t working. And we need a better one,” he said.
In interim results, the fashion brand said it was “vital” ministers took a “demand led approach” to ensuring the country has the staff necessary to run.
It warned it was “likely to experience some degradation in our service” over the next few months, unless the government relaxed immigration rules.
“The HGV crisis was foreseen, and widely predicted for many months,” the retailer said.
“For the sake of the wider UK economy, we hope that the Government will take a more decisive approach to the looming skills crisis in warehouses, restaurants, hotels, care homes, and many seasonal industries.”
The country is struggling to cope amid a shortfall of around 100,000 HGV drivers. Other sectors including hospitality and retail have called for ministers to help them access workers overseas to fill skills shortages.
Many overseas workers returned to their home countries during the pandemic and have yet to return.
Next could be forced to bring forward its next day delivery cut-off from 11pm, but deliveries would not “grind to a halt,” the Conservative peer said.
“If we want our companies to start investing again, we must put aside such fears and place our trust in the collective intelligence and endeavour of Britain’s 30 million-strong workforce,” Wolfson wrote in an opinion piece for The Times during the EU referendum debate in 2016.
“A nation that wants to stand still is a nation in decline,” he said.
The company had experienced some hardship in recruiting seasonal staff for warehousing and logistics jobs, Next said.
Next said on Wednesday it expected sales to rise 10 per cent on 2019 levels and pre-tax profits to reach £800m for the year to January. This is 6.9 per cent on 2019 and above previous guidance of £764m.