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Hospitality industry feeling the pinch of worker shortage

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  • Hospitality industry feeling the pinch of worker shortage

    Hospitality industry feeling the pinch of worker shortage
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    Font: * * * * Paul Marck, The Edmonton Journal
    Published: Thursday, March 09, 2006
    EDMONTON - If any one sector is feeling the pinch of the skills shortage, it is Alberta's hospitality industry. Dave Kaiser, president and CEO of the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association, says the top three concerns voiced by the group's 800 members in a recent survey all concern staffing and labour issues.

    "Our industry is really being hit by the labour shortage throughout the province," says Kaiser.

    "In some jurisdictions it is really acute."

    While there are an estimated 36,000 employees working in Alberta's hospitality sector from housekeepers, beverage and food service workers to managers, there is an estimated 9,900 positions short across the board, said Kaiser.

    The hospitality industry is working to stem the tide of job losses. Last year it undertook major improvements in human relations, from offering education and foreign-worker incentives, to improved health benefits and wages.

    There is competition with the retail sector for lower-paying positions such as housekeepers. But employers paying minimum wage are a thing of the past, says Kaiser.

    Housekeepers that earned $8 and $9 an hour in Edmonton and Calgary a year ago now command $10 and up, with establishments in Fort McMurray paying $16 and $17.

    "It's a huge gap that we have to make up," says Kaiser.

    "We have to work to retain the staff we already have and find ways to make our industry more attractive for new people to come into it."

    Kaiser says the industry's challenge is to make progress in those areas.

    "Certainly wages, benefits, working conditions, training and education are all really, really important. As far as attraction, they have a bearing, but we really have to look beyond our borders for the long term."

    Part of the problem in bringing foreign workers into Alberta is that 75 per cent of new Canadians head for Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

    An immigrant initiative aimed at the Philippines three years ago has resulted in 50 people coming to Alberta. The hospitality industry is helping them gain Canadian citizenship and making other efforts to keep a supply of new workers heading west.

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    © The Edmonton Journal 2006