Employers are struggling to fill vacancies, but are the industry’s poor wages and conditions to blame?

Staff shortages are casting a pall over the influx of foreign visitors as restaurants and hotels close rooms, cut menus and limit occupancy to cope.

Auckland chef Nic Watt attends a Sunday job fair for tenants of the Ponsonby Central retail and hospitality center, hoping to find up to a dozen staff for his restaurant Inca, so he can start serving daily lunches and a full menu again.

Watt estimates he could easily absorb 30 additional workers at his four Auckland restaurants and is looking forward to the arrival of three qualified staff from Indonesia and Bahrain.

But there is a warning that simply flooding the market with migrants to solve current shortages would set back efforts to reshape employment practices in tourism, where a recent survey found nearly 60% of vacancies jobs attracted fewer than five candidates.

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An industry snapshot showed that in the June quarter of 2021, the estimated median hourly income for tourism was $21.58, which is $6.18 lower than the median hourly income across all industries, resulting in a pay gap of 22%.

Issues such as low wages, a large number of employers flouting labor laws, small businesses lacking management skills, and gender inequality leading to more women losing jobs in tourism due to the pandemic. , are outlined in a draft plan to tackle long-standing labor issues in tourism. .

None of this comes as a surprise to David Williamson, a senior lecturer at AUT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism, whose research is widely cited in He Mahere Tiaki Kaimahi, the Better Work Action Plan Project. released Wednesday by Tourism Minister Stuart Nash.

Nic Watt says his restaurants have had to reduce the number of days they serve lunch and, in some cases, menu options have been cut by two-thirds in response to staff shortages.

David White

Nic Watt says his restaurants have had to reduce the number of days they serve lunch and, in some cases, menu options have been cut by two-thirds in response to staff shortages.

Williamson says intense demand meant that much of the pay parity was stripped from the sector after the Labor Contracts Act returned, and that simply ‘turning the tap on labor back on completely’ ‘cheap migrant labour’ would put downward pressure on wages and conditions.

The action plan proposed by a group of government agencies, unions, Maori and industry representatives suggests a tourism and hospitality agreement that would set standards for the workforce, including wages, and approve good employers.

But first, more fundamental changes are needed, such as better resources for the Labor Inspectorate, so they can clean up the significant minority of “rat bag” employers who break the law, says Williamson.

Later this year he is due to repeat his 2021 Voices from The Front Line study which surveyed 400 hotel workers.

Lecturer at AUT's School of Hospitality and Tourism, David Williamson, says he faces disbelief from employers when he describes penalty rates and compensation that allowed workers to the hospitality industry to win a

RYAN ANDERSON/Stuff

Lecturer at AUT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism, David Williamson, says he faces disbelief from employers when he describes penalty rates and compensation that allowed workers to the hospitality industry from earning a “good solid wage” before the introduction of the Labor Contracts Act in 1991 began to erode wages and conditions.

It revealed that about 20% of workers were not receiving paid time off, were not being paid or receiving time off for working holidays and had no breaks.

About 80% had received no training in their current or previous roles.

The Aotearoa Tourism Industry and the Restaurant Association have both opposed the government’s proposed Fair Remuneration Arrangements Bill, arguing that the mandatory APFs are rigid and would put additional pressure on employer compliance.

Williamson says that kind of resistance is outdated and minimum standards are urgently needed.

“You have to be realistic and say ‘your job market is in crisis, and you can’t attract young people into your industry because your salary and conditions are not good enough'”.

Horwath HTL’s latest hospitality industry report predicts staff shortages will become even more acute and are expected to last for some time, with five more former MIQ hotels and five new hotels set to open before the end of the year.

A recent <a class=tourism industry Aotearoa survey of 360 businesses showed nearly a third thought they would need to limit guest occupancy and reduce services due to labor issues ‘work.” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>

David White

A recent tourism industry Aotearoa survey of 360 businesses showed nearly a third thought they would need to limit guest occupancy and reduce services due to labor issues ‘work.

“[For] New Zealand to maintain its reputation with overseas visitors, developing the right workforce has never been more critical than now.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa Managing Director Rebecca Ingram points out that the authors of the draft work plan have urged caution over the accuracy of the median hourly pay gap of $6.18 due to the impact of the pandemic on tourism data.

She says 70% of tourism businesses surveyed recently paid at least living wage ($23.65) and a third offered bonuses and bonuses.

Watt says pay rates have evolved significantly over the past two years.

Auckland restaurateur Nic Watt says baristas who used to earn around $22 an hour can now easily order $28, and highly experienced chefs can earn between $90,000 and $100,000 a year.

Chloe Ranford / Stuff

Auckland restaurateur Nic Watt says baristas who used to earn around $22 an hour can now easily order $28, and highly experienced chefs can earn between $90,000 and $100,000 a year.

“It’s supply and demand, there’s no supply, and the staff just go somewhere else for $1 or $2 more an hour.”

It pays finder’s fees to staff who help find new hires – “I paid a staff member $1,500 in the last year because she found three people for me” – and it pays a $2,000 bonus for 12 months of continuous service to retain qualified employees.

The Go with Tourism website was created to match displaced workers with employers and the median wage for 94 currently advertised jobs is $25 an hour.

The lowest paid position was $21.84 for a kitchen worker in Auckland, and the highest was a salary of over $75,000 for a chef in Queenstown.

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