Desperate supermarkets hire more staff to beat the pingdemic: Iceland targets 2,000 temps to keep stores open as shelves empty across UK with meat, bottled water and ice cream in short supply
- Iceland confirmed in the next few days it will start to draft in another 2,000 employees to fill temporary roles
- Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Lidl and Morrisons stores were seen with significant gaps in their shelves this afternoon
- Comes after the British Meat Processors Association CEO warned about impact on supplies from ‘pingdemic’
- Issue is exacerbating an existing shortage of delivery drivers caused by Brexit and delays with HGV licenses
- A Food and Drink Federation survey revealed three-quarters of its members reported a driver shortage
- It comes as a third of Dorset Police’s control room staff were off work after being ordered to self-isolate
Desperate supermarkets are hiring more staff to beat the ‘pingdemic’ as shelves lie empty across the country while workers self-isolate due to the NHS Test & Trace app.
Iceland today confirmed in the next few days it will start to draft in another 2,000 employees to fill temporary roles across its shops following an advertising blitz in stores, on social media and in service stations.
The frozen food chain has been forced to reduce opening hours this week and its northern sites have been particularly hard hit by staff absences.
Pictures show aisles at some supermarkets already empty of cheese, meat, bottle water, ice cream and fresh vegetables as an expert warned food chains were ‘starting to fail’ due to staff shortages exacerbated by the ‘pingdemic’ – and one police force struggled to answer 999 calls.
Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Lidl and Morrisons stores in Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, Cambridge and Southampton were seen with significant gaps on the shelves in sections including frozen fish, pizzas, bottled water, ice creams and packaged salads.
The images will raise concerns that a lack of supermarket staff and delivery drivers are leading to delays in replenishing product lines, although it is likely that many of these products are in higher demand in the summer, while other shoppers reported plentiful supplies.
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UK food supply chains ‘on the edge of failing’, meat industry warns
- COVID-19 aggravates labour shortage in meat processing
- ‘Pingdemic’ affecting multiple industries
- Retailers under pressure to maintain hours, stock shelves
LONDON, July 21 (Reuters) – Britain’s food supply chains are “right on the edge of failing” as absence related to COVID-19 has aggravated a critical shortage of labour, a meat industry body said on Wednesday.
The British Meat Processors’ Association (BMPA) said the shortage of skills was so critical, some plants had reported vacancies of 10% to 16% of permanent positions, discounting the impact of the pandemic.
“On top of the underlying worker shortage, we’re also hearing from some members that between 5% and 10% of their workforce have been ‘pinged’ by the (health service) app and asked to self-isolate,” BMPA CEO Nick Allen said.
The shortage of workers affected the meat products that require more labour to produce, he said, meaning those lines would be the first to be cut.
On Monday, England’s car plants, railways, supermarkets and pubs warned the government that the COVID-19 tracing app, which has told hundreds of thousands of workers to isolate, was wrecking the recovery and pushing supply chains to the brink of collapse. read more
Alerts, or “pings”, from the official app telling anyone identified as a contact of someone with the disease to self-isolate for 10 days have also disrupted schools and the healthcare system.
The government has announced exemptions for some workers identified as critical, including health and transport workers, but says it does not plan widespread rule changes.
Pictures on social media showed gaps on supermarket shelves as the so-called “pingdemic” is putting pressure on retailers’ ability to maintain opening hours and stock shelves.
Iceland Foods said over 1,000 workers, some 3% of its total staff, have been asked to self isolate, having been pinged by the app, forcing it to reduce trading hours and even shut a few stores.
It plans to recruit 2,000 additional staff to cover absences caused by self isolation.
Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability at industry lobby group, the British Retail Consortium, said the government needs to act swiftly.
“Retail workers and suppliers, who have played a vital role throughout this pandemic, should be allowed to work provided they are double vaccinated or can show a negative COVID test, to ensure there is no disruption to the public’s ability to get food and other goods,” he said.