With labour shortages gripping the country, one chicken shop has gone to extreme lengths to attract the best fit for the job, advertising a store manager position paying a salary of $130,000 with plenty of perks.
The role, at the South Hedland store of Western Australian fast-food chain Chicken Treat, also included relocation assistance and two return flights home a year on the house.
Much like the fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) clientele in the Pilbara region, Chicken Treat also stipulated in the job ad that the right person could FIFO for the position. The expressions of interest for the job closed a fortnight ago.
Western Australia is experiencing Australia’s worst labour shortage, according to Premier Mark McGowan, with the country’s lowest unemployment rate (2.9%) combined with the highest participation rate leaving a tiny pool of workers to fill growing vacancies.
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But businesses all over the country are going to similar lengths to attract talent in a nationwide labour shortage so acute that it’s second only to Canada in the developed world.
Last year, pizza chain Dominos had about 7000 vacancies countrywide, so to lure talent, Australia CEO David Burness announced one successful applicant would receive a Nintendo Switch and free pizza for a whole year.
“Whoever that person is they’re going to be very popular with their mates,” he said.
On the far south coast of NSW, an RSL called Club Sapphire was struggling to hire staff, so management decided to sweeten the deal by renting a four-bedroom unit to house both current and future employees.
Chief executive Damien Foley said the labour squeeze combined with the shortage of housing in Merimbula after tree-changers snapped up local real estate had become so significant that “we needed to take the situation into our own hands and purchase a property”.
“We’ve had a number of situations where we’ve attracted potential employees from outside the area that want to move here,” he said.
“They’re suitable for the position but ultimately can’t take it because they can’t find accommodation.”
But the outlandish tactics don’t always work. In the Northern Territory, a small Indian restaurant managed to survive consecutive lockdowns during the pandemic only to be left high and dry when they could not find a replacement chef.
Bhoj Restaurant’s business was booming, so owner Urmil Lamba said the right fit for the job would get subsidised housing, free meals, and plane tickets to travel to Katherine, where the popular dining spot was located.
Despite this, she could not find a new chef. Lamba shut up shop last month, saying the pressure had become too great.
The Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) said it has repeatedly heard from members about the acute labour shortage — even instances where pharmacists in Jindabyne had purchased caravans for their pharmacy assistants.
Like Club Sapphire in Merimbula, it was a double whammy, COSBOA says — the culmination of both a housing affordability crisis and a staff shortage that is causing so many businesses to struggle.
It was this combination that McGowan found most contentious as the WA premier called for more migration out west.
“When I was in Sydney last week I saw lots of people who have very ordinary paying jobs yet the average price of a house there is $1.2 million dollars — I don’t understand how people live,” he said.
“They could move here and have a much better and more affordable life, own their own home and have money left over. It’s a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned.”