Los Angeles (AFP)
Businesses have reopened in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the United States, with “We’re Hiring” signs everywhere. But if life looks like it was before Covid, a new challenge has arisen for restaurants: workers are not ready to come back at any cost.
“We are facing a staffing shortage that I haven’t experienced in my career,” said Skyler Gamble, director at Acme Hospitality, who oversees several restaurants in Santa Barbara about a two-hour drive north of Los Angeles.
“Our experience over the past six to nine months, as activity levels have rebounded, is that fewer and fewer applicants are responding to job postings. “
The hospitality industry has been hit by restrictions related to the coronavirus and pandemic, cutting millions of jobs.
But all restaurateurs counting on a return to normal have experienced a rude awakening.
Classifieds abound on the Internet – waiters, cooks and bartenders are in high demand.
But in a major power shift, employers looking to hire a skilled worker increasingly need to stand out from the crowd.
# photo1Craig Martin, owner of Cafe 50’s on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, has to replace a cook. Faced with a lack of candidates, he proposed a hiring bonus of $ 2,000, or $ 500 per month over four months.
Like many of those trying to hire, Martin attributes the apparent labor shortage to pandemic-related unemployment benefits.
Many former service workers “don’t even think about looking for a job,” he said.
– ‘Don’t rush’ –
The reality is more complex, said Enrique Lopezlira, director of the low-wage work program at UC Berkeley’s Labor Center.
Employers who complain about the market should recognize that they are simply unable to find workers “at the wage and job quality” they are willing to offer, he said.
# photo2 Many hospitality workers do not receive paid sick leave or health care benefits, and “are still unwilling to return to the workforce as they still feel highly exposed to the virus”, in especially with the spread of Covid variants, he said.
The issue of childcare, especially during the summer months, also affects women’s return to work.
For University of California, Berkeley economist Sylvia Allegretto, there is “certainly no shortage of manpower.”
“But employers find it strange that workers are taking their best options as the economy opens up and not rushing to the lowest paying jobs with little to no perks,” Allegretto said.
– ‘Abuse at work’ –
Before the pandemic, Kenzie McMillan worked as a waitress in a Hollywood restaurant.
On the night of March 2020, she lost her job “without warning, without warning” and without compensation.
When her former boss called in June of last year asking her to come back, she said no. Returning to work would have meant losing her unemployment benefits, and she feared spreading the virus to a roommate with an autoimmune disease.
“It’s not worth it, again I wasn’t paid enough,” said the 27-year-old, who did not have medical insurance for restaurant work and was “tired. By the physical demands of the work.
For Allegretto, it is clear that employers will have to “increase their level of play to compete for workers”.
Acme Hospitality and Martin -om Cafe 50’s – said they had increased their wages.
But it is “difficult to predict” whether the improved wages and benefits currently offered at many establishments will continue once the economy fully recovers, which is only likely towards the end of next year. Lopezlira said.
“The whole workforce has changed,” said McMillan, who sees parallels with the #MeToo movement.
Women have been exploited “for so long until they were like, ‘Oh actually I don’t have to do this and I can say no,’” she said.
McMillan found a new job in April at a hip Hollywood hotel where she is paid $ 17.50 an hour and finally has medical insurance.
“We realized that we don’t have to be mistreated at work,” she said.
© 2021 AFP