MORNINGTON Peninsula businesses are facing a bleak tourism season unless staff shortages can be turned around before the end of winter.
The demand for hospitality staff is crippling business across the peninsula, with cafes, hotels and restaurants all begging for staff.
The problem of staff shortages in hospitality is not new, but has been exacerbated by COVID since 2019, this year’s emergence of a bad strain of flu, and young people apparently turning away from working in the sector.
Kera Zaltsberg, of Mornington Peninsula Beachside Tourism, said all businesses were in the same boat, with many operating on skeleton staffing levels.
“We are still in a recovery period after COVID, young people are not looking for work but, on the other hand, people are not coming out like they used to, and we don’t know when that will change,” she said.
“It makes me wonder where did everybody go? They can’t have all been backpackers, so where are all the young people that used to want to work in hospitality while studying or at school.”
Australian Bureau of Statistics’ data suggest the staff currently working are having to work longer hours and more days to cover shifts.
In May, the monthly unemployment rate stayed at 3.9 per cent but the monthly hours people worked jumped by 17 million.
Belinda Clarke, of the Restaurant and Catering Association of Australia, said some staff were working up to 100 hours to keep businesses afloat.
Rye Hotel owner Peter Horton said he knew businesses had tried several initiatives to attract local staff to fill the gaps previously filled by tourists or overseas students, such as appealing to mothers to work during school hours.
“It’s been hard to bring people to the peninsula because they have to find accommodation, so we need to look local as much as possible,” he said.
“In the past we would have had lots of people applying for jobs, but that has definitely changed; it’s a really tough one for businesses.
“Even with staff, absenteeism is high, you can set up rosters and then people get sick or just don’t show up.”
Owner of Revolution Roasters in Somerville, Paul O’Brien, said his business was training baristas to help his clients deal with the staff shortage.
“Every one of the businesses we supply on the peninsula are looking for staff, particularly baristas, so we decided we could help them by training up young people as baristas,” he said.
“It was a matter of having to do something … at the moment it’s just for our clients, but by next year we hope to have a training scheme up and running for anyone.”
Clarke said the Restaurant and Catering Association of Australia wanted to speed-up the consideration of temporary visas, which were taking 83 days to process – almost one month longer than in March.
Up to 25 per cent of skilled workers visas were taking at least one year to process.
Clarke said the processes needed to be streamlined but, in the meantime, she was encouraging employers to be as flexible as possible with rosters and hiring and consider hiring mature and semi-retired workers who could bring in a lot of experience and work ethic.
“It’s a tough time across Australia, in every state it’s the same. Cafes and restaurants are operating at half capacity, some close more often and some have reduced the menu,” she said.
“It means is uncertainty for the industry and for consumers.”