Worker shortage keeps biting

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By CASS MARRETT

Queenstown businesses are desperately trying to recruit staff to ensure they can meet potential demand over summer under the government’s new traffic light system, which came into play yesterday.

One hospo company’s even offering a $250 signing-on bonus — with no experience necessary and full on-the-job training provided.

Republic Hospitality, which owns several Queenstown venues including Winnies, Ballarat Trading Co., Sundeck and Frankton Arm Tavern, has been doing its own recruiting, which CEO Blair Impey says has been ‘‘a little slow’’.

Currently down about 10 staff, the signing-on bonus is borne out of the ‘‘competitive market’’, he says, and aims to give new employees a good start and ‘‘create a bit of excitement’’.

Queenstown Hospitality New Zealand regional manager Darelle Jenkins reckons there’s possibly a record number of vacancies being advertised.

‘‘It’s creating this wage war … there has been one here for a while but even more so at the moment,’’ Jenkins says.

Remarkable People director Ed Stott says wage offers coming in from their clients, across all industries, show businesses have had to ‘‘reflect’’ on remuneration to make themselves more appealing to potential employees.

And while they’re able to find candidates for jobs, it’s ‘‘not at the rate we would like’’.

‘‘We’ve been dealing with a lot of hospitality companies that normally wouldn’t ever have a need for a recruitment agency such as ourselves, but due to the influx of tourism that everyone’s hoping we’re going to see past the 15th of December … there’s a lot of businesses that realise they need a lot more staff, they’ve been kind of scraping by on a  skeleton staff,’’ Stott says.

Impey says a large problem remains the lack of working holiday visa-holders who turn up ‘‘with the backpack on their back, that generally have qualifications from home’’.

And Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ruth Stokes warns that may only get worse, given Australia’s preparing to ease border restrictions for fully-vaccinated visa-holders, despite that being delayed in light of the new Omicron variant.

‘‘When people can start to travel out of New Zealand, it’s going to get even worse,
we will lose people,’’ she warns.

Queenstown — and the South Island — moved into the new traffic light system at ‘orange’ on Friday, which Impey says is a relief.

‘‘The staff are looking forward to not having to tell people to sit down, when a lot of people are just wanting to dance.

‘‘We want people to enjoy themselves and we don’t like being the fun police, we like being the fun instigators.’’

cass.marrett@scene.co.nz