BP garages and Iceland stores forced to shut as 'pingdemic' grinds … Thu, 22 Jul 2021 09:00:00 +0100-The frozen foods grocer said its recruitment drive will begin in a “few days” after this week admitting it has had to shut some stores due to staff shortages.
Iceland has confirmed plans to hire 2,000 extra store staff to cover staff absences following the so-called “pingdemic”.
The frozen foods grocer said its recruitment drive will begin in a “few days” after this week admitting it has had to shut some stores due to staff shortages.
Iceland will put job ads out in stores, on social media and in petrol service stations.
All the vacancies will be temporary roles to see the supermarket through current staff shortages which are affecting multiple supermarket chains nationwide.
The unusually high number of employee absences are being caused by workers having to stay home after being “pinged” and told to self-isolate by the NHS app.
Speaking to the BBC, Iceland managing director Richard Walker said over 1,000 staff had been “pinged” and staff absence rates are now double the usual number, with the figure rising 50% “week on week”.
He told Radio 4's Today programme: “Our big concern is that we've kept all of our shops open throughout the pandemic, but now we have had to close one or two shops and reduce hours in others.
“But that could get a lot worse a lot quicker, unless the country's system is sorted out.”
But Mr Walker urged shoppers not to panic-buy, saying: “There is certainly no problem with supply of stock.
“Panic-buying is only an option for those who can afford it and it often means that others go without.”
Opening hours across the Iceland shop estate have also been reduced following the shortages.
A spokeswoman for Iceland told The Grocer: “We have been bringing local colleagues in from nearby stores to support the stores that need more help.
“It has been all hands to the pump. We’ve seen managers driving delivery vans and really going above and beyond.”
The recruitment drive from the supermarket chain comes after M&S said it may also have to cut opening hours to cope with the absences.
It's estimated there is a shortfall of around 100,000 lorry drivers in the UK.
The problems combined have caused complaints of empty shelves from customers who shop at the Big Four – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – as well as discounters like Aldi and Lidl.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) – the trade association for all UK retailers – is also urging shoppers not to panic buy and says supermarkets are working closely with suppliers.
But it admits retailers are under “increasing pressure” to keep shelves stocked.
Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability at the BRC, said: “The ongoing 'pingdemic' is putting increasing pressure on retailers' ability to maintain opening hours and keep shelves stocked. Government needs to act fast.
“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 coronavirus test, to ensure there is no disruption to the public's ability to get food and other goods.
“With community cases soaring, the number of healthy retail staff having to self-isolate is rising fast, disrupting retail operations.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week said certain “critical workers” won't have to stay home if they're pinged – including staff such as NHS workers to railway signallers and air traffic controllers.
But firms will have to apply to the government for permission one by one and only a few thousand workers are expected to be included.
This has led to food chiefs claiming the rules aren't clear enough and urged for clarity on who exactly can carry on working.
Iceland forced to recruit 2000 extra workers as staff isolate in … Thu, 22 Jul 2021 09:00:00 +0100-Supermarkets and petrol stations are being forced to close due to staff shortages caused by the NHS Test and Trace system. As the 'pingdemic' ramps up across …
Supermarkets and petrol stations are being forced to close due to staff shortages caused by the NHS Test and Trace system.
As the ‘pingdemic’ ramps up across the country, Iceland has shut ‘a number of stores’ as too many members of staff have been told to self isolate by the Covid app.
The supermarket chain say 1,000 employees, or 4% of its workforce, have had to stay at home for this reason.
It has been forced to reduce trading hours in some stores and says it will hire 2,000 extra staff to cover absences following an advertising campaign.
Supermarkets that have managed to stay open are struggling to keep their shelves full due to a lack of workers.
Pictures taken yesterday show bare fruit and veg boxes, as well as freezer cabinets and other aisles.
It has fuelled calls from British Retail Consortium for the Government to relax isolation guidance for workers to deal with the ‘increasing pressure’.
However Iceland boss Richard Walker has urged customers not to panic buy and says not everywhere has been affected as badly.
He told BBC Radio 4: ‘There is certainly no problem with supply of stock and there’s absolutely no need for people to panic buy.
‘We certainly don’t want to go back to the dark days of April 2020, because panic buying is only an option for those who can afford it, and it often means that others go without.
‘Our supply chains are resilient. Yes we do have some availability issues, which are probably as bad as they’ve been over the last year, but there is enough to go around.
‘The dramatic pictures that you might have seen in the media are isolated incidents and not widespread.’
BP has has to close a handful of stations due to a petrol and diesel shortage caused by a lack of available drivers due to too many being pinged.
However, the oil company said the ‘vast majority’ of shortages were being ‘resolved within a day’.
It said the problem had been made worse by the closure of a distribution terminal, due to staff being told to isolate last week.
Meanwhile M&S has warned that 20% of its workforce would be isolating by mid-August, which could force it to reduce opening hours.
Currently 1.7million workers are thought to be in self-isolation due to the test and trace system, MailOnline reports.
Some will have been pinged by the Covid app, while others will have been contacted by Test and Trace officials.
Calling on Downing Street to take action, British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: ‘We are already seeing a serious impact on retail operations as a result of staff having to self-isolate and this will only get worse right across the economy, as cases are already rising fast and the final restrictions are eased.’
The Government is currently planning to allow fully vaccinated people to be exempt from the 10 day isolation requirement from August 16.
But Ms Dickinson called on No 10 to pull this forward so people are no longer forced to ‘needlessly quarantine’.
Boris Johnson has announced plans to exempt a ‘small number’ of fully vaccinated key workers so they can carry on their jobs.
He said the sectors would include ‘food, water, electricity, medicines, the running of our trains, the protection of our borders and the defence of the realm’.
When asked if he might expand this list, he said he was reluctant, adding that self-isolation to control the virus is ‘one of the only shots left in our locker’.
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– July 22, 2021
Pingdemic Iceland forced to recruit 2000 extra workers as staff isolate in