As the pandemic cases continue to decline, most people can now dine out. But some hospitality professionals abandoned the industry after months of waiting. Others have relocated to cities with permissive public health policies, leading to an enormous work shortage.
What is keeping workers on the sidelines?
One of the challenges in the hospitality industry is finding qualified staff. Jim Conway has worked in a hotel for almost four decades. But even though the world has changed significantly, he earned $2.83 per hour (minimum wages for workers in Pennsylvania). And with the hospitality industry hardly hit by the pandemic, Jim decided to retire at age 62.
According to Conway, he was paid the equivalent of a chocolate bar, and that’s why he could stick any longer. Keep in mind; there are lots of people who don’t like to live in the olden days.
According to the 2021 statistics, the industry recorded 1.7 million fewer jobs than the same period before the pandemic struck. In March, the industry almost lost over one million job openings. Amid the covid-19 crisis, restaurants are trying to get back to their feet.
Has the issue become political?
Republicans are now blaming Biden’s administration for boosting the federal insurance supplement. Just like Jim, many people are of the view that the industry is worthless. Others believe many flashpoints have emerged over the last few years.
According to Hanna Raskin (Charleston Post and Courier), restaurant workers are now spending their time and family. Some say people enjoy eating together with their families – restaurants cannot accommodate this schedule.
The actual picture from industry experts
The considerable work shortage in the restaurant industry has to do with the conditions that existed before the pandemic. And people don’t want to go back to that.
Another restaurant worker from Austin said employees don’t want to go back to the hospitality industry because of the trauma and abuse in the past year. The other interesting statistic from a restaurant staffing firm stated that 26% of workers left the industry while 40% remain underemployed. Out of a sample size of 2000 workers, a third of the respondents claim that they are not ready to go back to work.
While some restaurant workers are still worried about their safety, most of them said they were not ready to return to the industry. Others expressed concerns about the tense workplaces, unpredictable work schedules, and grinding hours. Other things that have negatively contributed to the sector include widespread drug and alcohol abuse, wage theft, and sexual harassment.
Unlike other jobs, the benefits are also limited. For instance, the industry doesn’t offer reasonable sick pay, sick time, and livable minimum wage. Mis en Place (a restaurant staffing firm) also highlighted that the average job tenure in the food industry is less than two months.
A worker from Carrabba’s Italian Grill said she had to find another job after the pandemic shuttered the business. But the worst part is that it took months for her employment request to be accepted.
How about those that tested positive?
Salm secured a new job at Walmart but was found to have a fever during the screening process. She was sent home because the company required the workers to go for quarantine after testing positive. And because Walmart didn’t offer coverage to such patients, she had to go for a couple of weeks without pay. This was a nightmare to her.
Salm couldn’t find a restaurant job and was left with no other option besides taking care of the seniors. Again, the money she got could only cater to her food and rent.
The war is far from over, considering that most people are yet to be fully vaccinated. Salm believes that the restaurant industry can’t afford the money she earned taking care of seniors.
Are workers willing to go back to the industry?
Like others, Allan Creasy has been in the restaurant industry for two decades. Recently, he worked as a bartender – again, this was a tipping point for him. Before the tips, the wages were $2.3 per hour. After the initial lockdown, Creasy decided to quit his career to pursue other interests.
Another example of a frustrated worker is Nathaniel. He was working with McDonald’s before moving to a fast-food chain. He was earning $11 per hour with no healthcare. He says the current workers’ shortage is due to the lack of unemployment insurance.
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