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Wage increases, end of CRB should help address Maritime labour shortages: business experts

Click to play video: 'Businesses dealing with worker shortages hope end of CRB will help' Businesses dealing with worker shortages hope end of CRB will help
Business owners are hoping more people will start returning to work now that the Canada Recovery Benefit, or CRB, has concluded. It’s a possible pivot point, as employers continue to grapple with labour shortages. But some say higher wages could be another way to address the challenges moving forward. Callum Smith reports. – Oct 28, 2021

Business owners and experts are hoping — and expecting — more people will start returning to work with the Canada Recovery Benefit, or CRB, now concluded.

“We have a hard time getting people, and then the quality of people sometimes isn’t what you need, but you just need some bodies on-site to do the work,” says Dimo Georgakakos, the owner of Gus’ Pub in Halifax. “And sometimes, we have to just shut down a shift in the kitchen because we don’t have anyone to work.”

Georgakakos says his business hasn’t faced a labour shortage in its 60 years of operating.

But Ed McHugh, a business professor at several Halifax universities and NSCC, says things should start to change.

Ed McHugh, a business professor at several Halifax universities and NSCC, says low-wage jobs have the most vacancies. Callum Smith / Global News

“I think it’ll start to force some people back into the workplace,” he says.

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With uncertainty around restrictions, especially earlier on in the COVID pandemic, some workers stayed away from the hospitality sector or left it altogether.

John Wishart, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton, says the ending of CRB and changes to employment insurance (EI) “may lead to a few more people entering the workforce.”

“Our business community needs that,” he says.

John Wishart, the CEO for the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton, says a lack of immigration during the pandemic is another contributing factor to labour shortages. Callum Smith / Global News file

Wishart calls the shortages “the number one challenge preventing a full recovery of the economy.”

Click to play video: 'Businesses dealing with worker shortages hope end of CRB will help' Businesses dealing with worker shortages hope end of CRB will help
Businesses dealing with worker shortages hope end of CRB will help – Oct 28, 2021

The Canada Recovery Benefit concluded Saturday, leaving EI or lockdown benefits as two possibilities.

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Wishart says there were 30,000 more New Brunswickers recently on EI compared to two years ago. But the shift is starting, and he says a 10-cent minimum wage increase is no longer viable.

Read more: Some salaries up ‘drastically’ as Canada feels impact of labour shortages

“So what is that a livable wage?” he asks. “I know a lot of business owners who tell me, ‘look, there’s no way I can offer $12 an hour, $14 an hour anymore.’ You know, the starting wage is $15 up to $20.”

McHugh says more “fair policies” are needed when it relates to compensation.

“The problem is that is the payment levels through the jobs, the shortage is in those high, high labour-intensive, low paying jobs,” he says. “The jobs where employers control your hours, you might go in for a two-hour shift and you’re off for three hours, you’re back in for three.”

It is a double-edged sword, though, because many businesses, especially restaurants, are still trying to recover from COVID-19’s impacts, Wishart says.

He says a lack of immigration throughout the pandemic is another factor in the shortages.

Read more: ‘I can make more money on CERB’: More concerns benefit may be a disincentive for workers

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Now, with the end of the CRB, businesses are looking forward to the future.

“We’re expecting things to turn around once the incentives to not work sort of go away,” Georgakakos says.

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