October 19, 2017 6:21 pm

Vancouver bagel shop owner calls B.C. labour shortage ‘a perfect storm’

Vancouver small businesses are desperate for staff.

Global News
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Small businesses in Vancouver are having difficulty hiring and retaining staff.

One Vancouver bagel shop, Solly’s Bagels, has even had to close one of its locations for a month.

Speaking with CKNW’s Simi Sara on Thursday, owner Leah Markovitch said the situation is very bad.

LISTEN: Solly’s Bagels forced to limit opening hours due to labour shortage

“It’s the worst point we’ve ever been at short labour in Vancouver. What I call it, is a perfect storm,” she said.

“We’re running on two people and we are not able to be critical of the quality of our workers because those are the only workers we have. The customers complain, but I can’t do any better,” Markovitch said.

Markovitch cited affordability costs, fewer people interested in kitchen work and a lack of foreign workers as reasons for the shortage.

“Cancellation of the foreign workers program in 2014 was very hard on us. They cut front-counter service and low skilled jobs.”

Markovitch said Solly’s pays a living wage of $15 an hour and after a month of training, it increases to $18 an hour.

WATCH: The fight over temporary workers

She said re-introducing the Temporary Foreign Worker program would be a good start, but labour market analyst Christian Saint Cyr told Simi Sara he believes otherwise.

LISTEN: Why are so many businesses experiencing labour shortages?

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The author of the BC Labour Market Report said the program was only a short-term solution.

“There’s this fundamental belief among a lot of employers that the quality of workers that’s available isn’t particularly good,” Saint Cyr said.

“I struggle with that to a certain degree. I think historically employers like McDonald’s would mentor people. They would teach them what it was to work.”

READ MORE: Help wanted: B.C. restaurants face hiring shortage

That mentorship is something that’s missing in the labour market today, Saint Cyr said.

He added that employers need to steer away from traditional ways of attracting employees such as job boards and advertisements and actively recruit staff instead.

“Employers need to be flexible as well and think differently.”

“A lot of times people have transportation issues, they have daycare issues, they have disabilities they are trying to overcome,” Saint Cyr said.

“The feedback I get from them is that employers aren’t willing to accommodate those challenges.”

He said that while young people need to learn what is expected of them, employers need to rethink relationship building, not just hiring.

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