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Whistler faces labour shortages amid COVID-19 pandemic

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If you're heading for the slopes this winter, you could be facing longer lines and fewer services, as B.C.'s ski resorts deal with a critical shortage of labour. Christa Dao reports – Oct 12, 2021

Whistler’s Chamber of Commerce says the resort community is facing a labour shortage exacerbated by the fact that many out-of-country workers are facing barriers getting into Canada.

Whistler Chamber of Commerce CEO Melissa Pace says about 35 per cent of the workforce comes from overseas.

“Most of our foreign workers were here on holiday working visas and they went home,” she said.

Pace notes that a number of hospitality workers moved into the trades when they were laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With not enough staffing, businesses have had to pivot.

“In some circumstances, it would be reduced menu, maybe reduced hours, and in some cases, they’re taking positions and moving them from department to department,” Pace said.

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Matthew Hamilton of  Whistler’s Premium Mountain Rental says the bike and ski rental shop is finally bouncing back after a difficult 2020. The challenge now is finding enough staff to keep up with demand.

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“It’s pretty stressful,” he said. “As a floor supervisor I don’t have really have too many people to supervise, so I’m running around like a headless chicken. It’s just a big stress, it’s put a lot of strain on everyone who is working.”

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Whistler Blackcomb also relies heavily on international workers. Like others, it faces a challenging labour market.

In a statement, Whistler Blackcomb told Global News:

“We contend with staffing dynamics every year and while this year may present unique challenges, we remain focused on attracting and retaining talent through competitive wages, comprehensive benefits, and a strong commitment to culture and leadership development.”

Read more: B.C. to change indoor public mask mandate to ages five and up

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There is plenty of optimism for the winter season as Canada welcomes back international visitors.

Pace says more efforts to reduce red tape are needed if the industry is to bounce back.

“We really need to start seeing the holiday working visas come back, the temporary foreign workers come back,” she said.

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