Newsmakers: Another ‘pandemic’? Local businesses struggle to find employees

This week’s special development as Newsmaker of the Week is the disclosure that major businesses in Jamaica are struggling to fill job vacancies.

This is largely due to workers’ reluctance to return to the jobs they lost at the start of the coronavirus pandemic for similar levels of compensation.

The issue of Jamaica’s labor shortage was highlighted in April this year when Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that Jamaica could be forced to import skilled workers as the country was facing a shortage of such workers. especially in the construction and tourism sectors.

A raging debate followed for weeks, with various stakeholders criticizing Holnes’ position, suggesting that there was no need to import labor, but training by institutions such as HEART NSTA/Trust.

On the other hand, although the coronavirus pandemic has hit the local labor market, many have opted to pursue entrepreneurship, seeking employment in other lucrative industries such as the business processing outsourcing (BPO) sector, or overseas. Turning to job programs.

Nevertheless, the BPO sector, despite grabbing some of the workforce from traditional sectors including tourism and quick service restaurants (QSR), still faces staff shortages in some areas of operations.

This week, Island Grill head Thalia Linn and Chas E Ramson managing director Philip Ramson both said they are adjusting their pay packages to attract and keep employees.

“We’re having a problem trying to find people to fill all the restaurants, and you can tell all the QSRs (quick-service restaurants) that that’s the problem,” Lynn revealed Tuesday.

Island Grill Head Thalia Lynn

Lin, who was speaking during the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce’s second-quarter business confidence webinar, said his company’s staffing supplement fell from 900 when it reached “600-plus” in March 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gone.

“We’re probably up to 90 percent eventually, but we still need people. We find that it’s really hard to find people who really want to work,” Lynn indicated.

According to him, Island Grill offers “nice benefits,” and is committed to paying a livable wage.

Recognizing that rising inflation is difficult to keep up with, Lin said the company has always assisted with meals and kept track of employees’ transportation costs.

“We make it (salary) performance-based, so if you come to work on time and you’re not sick or absent all the time, and we have levels of benefits (for the worker),” she indicated.

According to its website, there are 15 Island Grill restaurants locally.

Ramson agreed with Lin, saying that “finding skilled labor is a challenge”.

Ramson attributed the labor shortage partly to growth in the tourism and business process outsourcing industries.

“Also, I think people are demanding more because the cost of living has gone up significantly, and people are not willing to work for what they were doing pre-pandemic. As business owners, we have to adjust our packages to reflect the needs of employees,” Ramson announced.

He said, “Just to get to and from work and provide lunch for the day, these are things we have to look at, and it’s something we’re going to struggle with for the foreseeable future. “

Chas E Ramson, founded over 100 years ago, is one of Jamaica’s oldest food delivery companies.
But the phenomenon of staff shortage is also being experienced in many countries including the United States.

This was disclosed by Don Anderson, CEO of Market Research Services.

Don Anderson, Managing Director of Marketing Research Services

He highlighted that internationally, workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic are reluctant to return to those jobs for equal pay.

“Many of those workers are trying something entrepreneurial rather than going back to those jobs,” Anderson said.

Two weeks ago, Holnes again discussed labor issues at the local level.

Hinting that Jamaica was moving closer to full employment, he said the achievement would have an impact on many local industries.

“We are now at six percent unemployment, and it is approaching full employment, but in the context of Jamaica there are many other implications of full employment, and already I know the tourism sector is feeling the effects, said Holness.

He was speaking at the official opening of the ROK Hotel during a tour of the facility in downtown Kingston at the time.

According to Holness, there is currently a need for employees in various sectors, and the government is aware of that reality.

However, he explained that in the context of Jamaica, many of its citizens are still not part of the labor force.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness

“It is not that every single capable and capable Jamaican is employed. It is not so. The case is that only six percent of Jamaicans who present themselves in the labor market are without work,” he argued.

“…but there are still a significant number who are not formally in the labor force. Some of them are not properly trained, and some of them have just decided they are not participating,” Holnes said. Told.

To address that persistent issue, the prime minister said the government would continue its efforts to attract more people into the formal labor force.

“We need them (individuals) to support the growth and support the continued growth of the construction sector, the continued growth in the tourism and hospitality sector, the continued growth in the BPO sector, on which other sectors will grow and add to our diversity. for,” Holness said at the time.

Also adding to that point, he pointed to a recent outline by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) that the island’s economy grew by 6.4 percent in the first quarter of this year.

Holnes said this is a sign that despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of the war in Ukraine, the local economy continues to perform well, and more investment is needed at the local level.

Amid the island’s economic growth, a historically low unemployment rate, and calls for more investment, Jamaican business owners are wondering where workers will come from to fill a growing list of vacancies.

Social media users also added their viewpoint to the furious discussion, arguing that business owners are to be blamed, as they have not increased wages for their employees, especially due to rising inflation and increased food cravings. In terms of cost.

“These people (business owners) expect workers to work long hours for little money and minimal benefits. Ah, that’s the result,” wrote one Facebook user, Annemarie Hunter.

Sheldon Reid shared: “After two years of lockdown and restrictions, people found other ways to earn”.

Another forum user Sophia Johnson wrote: “Glad to see this day.

“It’s because some of these employers treat workers. Good must come from evil. Thank God for COVID. You employers must cash in, cook and serve and then clean up… these current businesses The owners only want to make money for themselves.

Johnson said, “Workers who have found better options, please remember to set aside for rainy days,[and]pay your taxes because schools and hospitals can’t function without money, and others in the country.” Priorities require money.”

Another social media user, Phyllis Sutherland, said that based on her own assessment, many industries, including construction, BPO and tourism, are struggling to get workers, such as restaurants and food delivery companies.

According to him, there are many “recruiting signs everywhere now”, as well as many job openings posted on websites such as Caribbean Jobs.

“(It) shows that some people who are unemployed are either too lazy or just love handouts. It is better to beg everyday and lie down waiting to rob the workers for their honest bread than to spend their little money Go to work.” Sutherland inaugurated.

Alvin Reid gave his opinion on labor issues.

“Blame the internet and social media. Nowadays all the youth are getting influenced by social media. Everyone tunes in to journalists and even language arts can clear GSAT!” he commented.

For businesses lamenting their plight in filling vacancies, Allison Johnson advised, “Nobody or them body work pays people low and makes people work some ridiculous hours.

“Fix the package and let it be more attractive,” she urged.

Sonya Ladyley Allen also offered advice: “Give employees better pay for long hours and some benefits… Doon the day of slavery!”

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