Global supply chains risk collapsing unless governments around the world restore freedom of movement for transport workers and prioritize them over vaccines, a coalition of international business leaders warned.
In an open letter to heads of state attending the United Nations General Assembly, the International Chamber of Shipping and other transport groups warned that nearly two years of travel bans and other restrictions had had “an extremely detrimental impact on [transport workers’] well-being and safety ”.
The “mistreatment” of workers was putting pressure on the already “crumbling” global supply chain, they said, adding that any failure to act could exacerbate existing shortages of essential goods, including electronics, food, fuel and medical supplies before Christmas.
Pandemic border restrictions, distancing requirements and factory closures have all wreaked havoc on traditional supply chains, leading to congestion at ports, delivery delays and skyrocketing freight rates on major markets. shipping routes between China, the United States and Europe. A shortage of transport workers increased the pressure, organizations warned, and could only get worse.
The call came as the UK government deploys troops to deliver gasoline after Britain’s decision to leave the EU, as the pandemic has led to a shortage of truck drivers. There is a shortage of truck drivers around the world, with the American Trucking Association reporting a shortage of nearly 61,000 drivers in the United States.
Transport organizations, which represent 65 million workers, accused governments of not listening to them and called for “decisive and coordinated action” to resolve the crisis.
At the height of the crisis, 400,000 sailors were unable to leave their ships, some working up to 18 months on their initial contracts, the letter said. Flights have been restricted and aviation workers have faced inconsistent restrictions / requirements on borders, travel and vaccines, he added.
Additional and systemic stops at road borders have also forced truck drivers to wait, sometimes weeks, before they can complete their trip and return home.
“Global supply chains are starting to crumble as two years of pressure on transport workers take their toll,” the groups wrote.
“All transport sectors are also experiencing a shortage of workers and expect more people to leave due to the mistreatment millions of people have faced during the pandemic, putting the supply chain under greater strain. threat, ”the letter reads.
The World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization must act quickly if they are to address these concerns, the letter adds.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, one of the signatories, said the group hoped common sense would prevail. “But despite all the good work that goes behind the scenes, the available data and the expertise, we have political science influencing decisions, not real science,” he said.
Umberto de Pretto, Secretary General of the International Road Transport Union, said: “What is needed is a political decision. Do you want an economic recovery or not? If you do, you want the political leadership to tackle this crisis. “
Last week, the Maersk shipping group, which carries about a fifth of all ocean freight and is considered an indicator of global trade, told the Financial Times it was on track to achieve record profits this year in Due to the disruption of global supply chains as a resurgence in consumer demand has caused freight rates to skyrocket. However, he also said it was likely to be 2022 before the supply chain started to return to normal.