June 10, 2014 1:47 pm

Fort McMurray airport struggling to find enough store and restaurant workers

EDMONTON – A lack of workers for stores and restaurants has taken a bit of a shine off the new international airport in Fort McMurray.

“There will be limited hours until we can recruit and train the right number of people to fully man these excellent facilities,” Scott Clements, CEO of the airport authority, said at the public opening of the $258-million terminal Monday.

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The 16 stores and restaurants in the airport are about 30 per cent short of the 400 workers they need to be fully operational, he said, adding that the ban on hiring temporary foreign workers for restaurants has made it particularly tough to hire.

“We’re hopeful that the federal government can come up with a satisfactory and timely solution to this problem because this program works in Alberta. It’s not abused in Alberta and we need it back.”

Read More: Fort McMurray has lift-off; new international terminal opens

Stu Wigle owns the Earls restaurants at the airport and in the city’s downtown. He hasn’t been able hire any foreign workers at the airport location. Wigle says the moratorium on temporary foreign workers is especially concerning in Fort McMurray because of the booming economy.

“With the location population [it] is a lot of fly-in fly-out, and so we don’t have the moms and kids within the family units to be able to support the service industry. A lot of Canadians don’t come up here to work in the service industry. They work out in the oilfield.”

Read More: Tories ponder tougher measures concerning temporary foreign workers

Fort McMurray Mayor Melissa Blake agrees the ban has had a major effect on the service and hospitality industry.

“Even when we think of the coffee shops in town or the hotel services or everything else that really relies on a population that isn’t resident in the community, we have to get them from somewhere, and these are not the folks that are able to ride airplanes back and fourth communities to service those needs.”

Wigle says his staff will do the best they can and hope the moratorium is lifted.

“We have enough staff. But like everyone else, we have current foreign workers who are looking at possible deportation.”

The federal government says the moratorium will remain in effect until it completes a review of the temporary foreign worker program.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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