With British Columbia now a full month into Step 3 of its reopening plan, many businesses in the province say they’re having to get creative to deal with staffing shortages.
The shortage has been particularly acute in the hospitality sector, where the industry says many people left during the pandemic and haven’t come back.
Jeff Guignard, executive director of the alliance of beverage licencees, said the sector — which employed about 190,000 in the “before times,” is currently short about 40,000 workers.
“Some folks have left the industry … it’s also much harder to get students and tourists coming in with our borders closed,” Guignard said, adding that as business slowed many tip-dependent staff opted for more stable work in another industry.
Others, he suggested, have opted to stick with government pandemic supports rather than return to work.
“Government benefit programs, which are well intentioned and designed to help citizens have been providing an accidental disincentive to employment in a lot of cases,” Guignard said.
“We hear that directly from folks coming in, who only want to work a couple days a week or want additional flexibility.”
Smaller towns and tourist hotspots, along with the hotel sector, have been particularly hard hit, he said.
The labour shortage has become so acute that some businesses are even offering cash signing bonuses to try and attract staff.
A Molly Maid cleaning company franchise in Victoria, for example, is offering $1,000 signing bonuses.
Sarah Brinkman, who operates a Molly Maid franchise in Grand Prairie, Alta., that’s offering similar $500 bonuses, said the incentives have been effective.
“We’ve retained staff,” she said.
“Not only that, given the opportunity to hold onto staff it’s worked out in many cases of building relationships with our staff in terms of great work environment, that sort of thing.”
Molly Maid isn’t the only one offering up cash to try and attract staff. The Fairmont Whistler is offering a $500 bonus to new room attendants, and Burnaby’s Aspire Bakeries is putting up $1,000.
While that approach may work for some businesses, Guignard said for many cash-strapped restaurateurs it’s simply not an option.
Increases in minimum wage — now $15.20 in B.C. — along with the elimination of the lower liquor server wage have already stretched budgets for smaller operators, he said.
“We’d offer cash incentives — we just don’t have any cash. It’s been over a year-and-a-half that most places have been breaking even at best,” he said.
“Unless you want to end up spending $45 on a burger and beer, there’s a limit to how much we can pay.”
The resulting shortage has seen some businesses cut hours, while others have looked at options like shift flexibility or improved benefits to try and attract workers.
And while the tight labour market is becoming a headache for employers, the stiff competition for workers is good news for those looking for a job.
“If you’re looking for a job in the hospitality industry, you can walk out the door and have a job by the end of the day.”View link »