Economy

Small restaurants and cafes lose out in the battle for staff

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Small and medium sized restaurants and cafés are being left behind in the scramble for staff because of rules that make it difficult for them to bring in foreign workers, the industry’s peak body says.

While parts of the hospitality sector have experienced a slowdown in recent months, many restaurants and cafés in fast-growing regions in Western Australia and Queensland are still desperate to hire new staff to meet booming demand.

The skill shortage has eased in parts the hospitality sector because of slowing consumer demand, but many restaurants and cafés in these regions are still desperate to hire new staff.

This has led fast-food chains McDonald’s and KFC to employ skilled workers from overseas using the s457 visa program to fill vacancies in areas suffering skills shortages, The Australian reports today.

The fact that hospitality businesses are turning to overseas workers to fill vacancies illustrates just how desperate the worker shortage is in some of these areas, Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive John Hart says.

“It isn’t a straightforward process to bring a worker in from overseas – you would generally have to pay around $60,000 for a skilled cook or chef coming, so that is a fair slice above the $35,000 to $40,000 they’d pay for a local person. But you just can’t find cooks or chefs in these places, there is a chronic shortage and people have little choice but to take these steps,” Hart says.

The problem is even worse for the majority of small and medium sized businesses in the sector because, in many cases, they are unable to qualify to bring in overseas workers.

According to Hart, immigration rules require businesses that want to sponsor overseas workers to show that they have a certain proportion of trainees and apprentices on their books, a requirement many small and medium sized operations find impossible to meet.

“Not only is the red tape more of a burden for small business, but in many cases small businesses are ineligible to bring workers in,” Hart says. “There are serious structural and systems problems that prevent many business using the skilled migration program.”

 

Read more on 457 visas and the skills shortage

 

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