Editor’s Opinion: Blinded by the Light at the End of the Tunnel

While New Zealand is bathing in complacency over the lack of COVID-19 community transmission and feeling like the virus is now in the rear-view mirror, the hospitality sector still feels the pain points.

The industry staffing squeeze is very real. Our Government needs to step up and address the skilled migrant workers issue and the impact of their policies on a seriously damaged sector.

Pre COVID-19, more than 25 percent of the hospitality workforce were internationals here on work visas. With the borders closed, access to this pool of workers has dried up.

In all things, when there is a shortage, the price goes up. Competition for skilled, experienced staff is at its highest levels with this industry in crisis. Many businesses struggle to attract interest in their ample job openings. Finding any worker, let alone a skilled one is difficult. According to the Restaurant Association, 92 percent of their members say it is challenging to recruit for mid to senior skill-level positions. We are in the middle of a skills shortage at levels never seen before.

This shortage has hit small and large hospitality businesses alike. They have had their operating ability restricted by staffing shortages and are powerless to do anything about it. Recovery looks bleak. Those that were holding on by their fingernails are about to fall.

Operators have gone through reducing hours, changing operating schedules and reducing or closing some services. Shortened menus, opening hours reduced and less staff working, but when is enough, well enough. What operators thought would be a short-term thing has become their worst nightmare with no end in sight.

That is not a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the train, and it’s about to run over businesses that need life support. We must demand that policymakers learn what is required to run a business and if they don’t know, then talk and listen to those who do.

With theory but no actual industry knowledge, the Government has just set up everyone for a fail.

More support is needed as the skilled workforce shortfall is now so significant that the sector is desperate. Together we need to find workable solutions that don’t just keep businesses operating in the short-term but allow for a rebuild in the mid to long-term.

By Tania Walters, Review Publishing.