As the UK fights to solve its shortage of lorry drivers, Downing Street has unveiled plans to offer 5,000 temporary visas to foreign truckers.
It is hoped this, as well as permits for agricultural workers from overseas, will give Britain’s supply chain a much needed boost in time to save Christmas.
But the offer to come over and work for three months just isn’t a sweet enough deal to convince many Polish truck drivers to return to the country.
A post-Brexit shortage of lorry drivers – estimated to be around 100,000 – has sown chaos throughout British supply chains, in everything from food to fuel.
It has raised the spectre of disruptions and price rises in the run-up to Christmas, with people already buying turkeys for the day.
On Sunday the Government said it would offer temporary visas to foreign truck drivers in response to the shortfall, which has left some gas pumps running dry.
But Tomasz Orynski didn’t think people would be too keen on dropping everything and coming over to work until Christmas Eve.
Thomasz said the UK had some of the worst conditions for drivers in Europe and that migrants would not leave stable, better paid jobs abroad to ‘pee in a bottle on the M25’.
He told Metro.co.uk: ‘Boris Johnson needs to stop looking at pictures of Britain as a place of glory and empire and start looking in the mirror and see it is not what it used to be.
‘Britain is just one of many countries [for drivers] and in many ways the job market is less attractive. The pay isn’t the greatest, the standards for drivers are terrible and there is not a lot of respect, not only for eastern European drivers but in general, Britain is very classist. ‘
Tomasz said he had personally experienced racism on the job and that Brexit had made the country a more hostile place to live for foreigners.
All of his Polish friends have left the UK and he is considering uprooting himself when he has enough money to move.
He said that in his 15 years as a trucker in Glasgow, roadside facilities for drivers such as parking, showers and toilets have not improved.
Meanwhile conditions for drivers have become much better elsewhere, particularly in Eastern Europe.
He said: ‘With most Polish companies if you want your driver to go somewhere overnight, you need to provide sleeping pods. But in Britain, it is still very common that drivers are expected to sleep across the seats. That just shows you how low standards are for drivers in Britain.
‘Toilet accessibility is a major problem on British roads, along with other shortcomings in the infrastructure.
‘There is a reason why even in the (TV show) Spitting Image when Tom Cruise was driving a lorry, he had a bottle with some yellow liquid on the dashboard. And I can guarantee you, it was not Irn Bru.
‘In my younger age, I used to be a hitchhiker and I travelled all over Europe, and I never saw those yellow bottles anywhere else, but in the UK.’
Thomasz criticised the government for treating migrants ‘like taps you can turn on and off’.
He said if ministers want to attract foreign workers, they should offer better pay and conditions, such help with accommodation or long-term visas.
He said: ‘The vast majority of the comments on the internet [from Polish drivers] are just laughing and mocking Britain.
‘”Brexit means Brexit”, “you voted us out and wanted us to go home, so we are home” – those are the more printworthy ones.
‘”Stuff that visas in your arse after how you treated us at Manston on Christmas last year” are the less-printable ones.’
Thousands of lorry drivers were stranded at Manston airfield in Kent last December when France closed its border to the UK due to an outbreak of Covid.
The crisis highlighted the poor working conditions faced by UK drivers on a daily basis, as many were left without food and access to toilets.
The UK has been dealing with a lorry driver shortage for years, which has been exacerbated by the mass exodus of drivers after Britain left the EU.
And the short-term offer visa offer just isn’t enough to convince 35-year-old Polish truck driver Jakub Pajka to go back to Britain, and he’s not alone.
The trucker, who quit his job in the UK as it was leaving the European Union, said three months just wasn’t long enough for it to be worthwhile.
Sitting behind the wheel of his truck in a car park outside Warsaw, he said: ‘No thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, I will not take advantage of this opportunity.
‘No drivers want to move for only three months just to make it easier for the British to organise their holidays.’
He said the additional money wouldn’t offset the stress of moving countries, the threat posed to him by migrants trying to stowaway on his lorry, or the separation from his family.
Jakub added: ‘The money you can earn in the UK does not compensate such driver for all the dangerous things that happen to him there.’
He pointed to scuffles between migrants and drivers he witnessed in ports of Calais and Dunkirk.
Hauliers operating trucks can face hefty fines for each stowaway found hiding in their vehicle.
On a different car park outside the Polish capital, Jacek Rembikowski, a 60-year old truck driver with 25 years of experience, also said Brexit influenced his decision to return home after working in Britain for seven years.
Despite his thirst for adventure, and his fond memories driving from ‘Norway to Portugal’, he says he now prefers to stay in Poland.
He added: ‘(There was) an uncertainty as to how we will be treated in this situation – Whether Brexit will shake up not only the industry but also whether drivers will still be wanted.’
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more stories like this, check our news page.