The Malta Independent 3 December 2021, Friday

Staff shortages still an issue in entertainment, food industry, but positive change on horizon

Kevin Schembri Orland Saturday, 19 May 2018, 10:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

The entertainment, food and catering industry is still finding issues with staff shortages, however collaboration by the GRTU and Jobsplus is slowly helping to solve the situation, GRTU Vice President of Policy and Strategy Philip Fenech told The Malta Independent.

He explained that while there is free movement of labour within the EU, establishments are still struggling to find enough people to fill their vacancies, and the need to employ third country nationals is still very much present.

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In the past, the Malta Independent had highlighted this particular issue, which is not solely related to the aforementioned industries, but is far more widespread. One major issue used to be the length of time it would take for a work permit to be issued for a third country national, but this has improved.

“In the past, it would take up to two years to process someone coming from a third country, which was simply not workable,” Fenech explained

The GRTU had held various meetings with Jobsplus, “who were very understanding”. The issuing of a work permit involves four entities – Jobsplus, Identity Malta, the National Commission for Further and Higher Education (who would check qualifications etc.) and the police. This situation has already seen very positive improvement, he said.

“It has been reduced to three months, which is extremely good, but we are saying that while a good improvement, it is still too long in business. In business every day counts. Even three months is too long, as by that time one would have had difficulty running their kitchen without a chef for example.”

He explained that the GRTU is now working with Jobsplus to reduce this even further, down to 15 days, “which would be the ideal scenario. Jobsplus has been very understanding on the issue and are working to speed up the process. We hope they are able to handle all the bureaucracy in that amount of time.”

“One must understand that staff turnover in these industries is quite an issue, and the catering industry is very volatile due to stiff competition.”

Fenech said that poaching of experienced staff in the tourism sector is also an issue, given that there is a lack of staff with the necessary skills.

“Due to Malta reaching 2.3 million tourists yearly, the difference between the summer and winter months is not as big as it was in the past. Long gone are the days when the industry had three whole months of strong tourism arrivals and the industry fought to break even during the winter months. The October-May gap is closing. This led to an increase in demand for staff, as work is distributed throughout the year now, and it’s no longer like before, where operators would only require part-timers in summer. The need for full-time employees has grown.”

He explained that due to the increase in demand, supply has also increased, and due to the creation of more establishments even more staff is needed. “Domestic tourism, from Malta to Gozo and vice-versa, as well as domestic consumption has also risen. Since there is more disposable income, people are spending more, thus meaning that establishments are busier now than they were a few years ago.”

“There is also an element of poaching from one establishment to another, creating higher costs, as the new establishment would try to offer better wages. Whether that wage would be sustainable or not in the long run is another story. This means that the human resource cost is rising across the board for those with experience and qualifications. There is also a need for more semi-skilled and unskilled workers willing to learn the basics.”

 

 

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