STAFF shortages across all sectors, and in particular the hospitality sector, could jeopardise the lucrative summer season in West Cork, with one restaurateur saying it’s the worst they have ever seen in their 50 years of operation.
As employers juggle to maintain staffing levels, some in the hospitality sector have no option but to close for two or three days a week due to being unable to recruit staff.
The question on employers’ lips is ‘where are the staff gone?’ – and it’s apparently a combination of factors that has led to this perfect storm.
The pandemic resulted in many staff moving on, re-training, or returning to their native countries.
Others say the PUP payment meant some students chose not to work this summer, with many having two years of savings to fall back on.
The difficulty in finding staff is partly to blame for the cancellation of the summer Irish courses at Coláiste na Mumhan in Ballingeary, as college bosses admitted that they were unable to recruit not only teachers, but also kitchen and yard staff for the summer months, despite an intensive advertising campaign. The local economies of both Ballingeary and Cape Clear will be hit hard by the lack of Irish students this summer.
Liam Edwards of Jim Edwards Bar and Restaurant in Kinsale said they are in business over 50 years and they have never seen the staff situation as bad.
‘We have advertised since April but to no avail. And we know it’s easier to find a job than accommodation in Kinsale, so this is a big factor in bringing staff to the town,’ said Liam, who is the chairman of Kinsale Chamber of Tourism and Business.
‘But we have always been able to attract local staff to work with us, offering a great work/life balance, but this year we have not seen the CVs coming through the door.’
Barry Looney of the West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen said finding staff is without doubt their biggest problem and he admits that they are struggling, like many other businesses.
‘It’s frustrating as we could take on more business if we had the bodies,’ said Barry.
‘There just don’t seem to be many students around either and a lot of them may have savings accrued over the past two years.’
Barry said that some young people are starting to work later than before.
‘People would have started work at 14 or 15 before, but now they’re almost 16 or 17 before they get their first job, and I guess there isn’t a need to work – that’s the biggest thing we have noticed. It seems like their expenses are covered.’
He pointed out that every industry is ‘crying out for staff.’
‘It’s the billion dollar question as to where all the staff have gone.
‘Maybe people took stock of their lives after the pandemic and they looked to changing their work/life balance.’
For example, if Barry and his team chose to take on a function on a Saturday night, they would be forced to close the restaurant, as they wouldn’t have the staff to cover both.
‘Everyone seems to be in the same boat, but there was a shortage in hospitality in kitchens before the pandemic and it was difficult to get chefs – now we are seeing it in every department.’
He said also that some people don’t want to work evenings or weekends, and that just doesn’t suit the hospitality sector.
The difficulty in getting staff is also affecting Scottish native Stuart Bowes, who owns the popular mobile Curley Stu Pizza trailer that visits several locations in West Cork at the weekends, including Newcestown and Cloughduv.
‘I have had to cancel some of my regular pitches on occasions as I just couldn’t find staff, despite advertising.
‘I am looking at getting one or two people to help me,’ said Stuart.
Stuart also caters for private parties but has been forced to turn some of them down because he didn’t have enough staff.
‘I could also do more locations if I had another person or two, but at the moment that is impossible.’
There are no indications that the situation getting staff across the board is going to change anytime soon.