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Hospitality Sector Struggles with New Restrictions and Labour Shortage

By Dieu-Hang Tran

About 70,000 people have left the restaurant sector alone, while small pubs are surviving by financial scheme of the government.

Under the new restriction, pubs and restaurants are set to close at 8pm from Monday 20th December. The CEO of the Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI), Adrian Cummins commented on the restriction as ‘a devastating blow for hospitality businesses and employees’.

According to RAI, since the beginning of the pandemic, 70,000 people have left the sector while there is a shortage of 7,000 chefs. With the new restriction, 60% of hospitality staff will be laid off Christmas week. Meanwhile, 88% of businesses are experiencing difficulties to recruit new staff, according to a survey by RAI in late 2021.

“We need people to come back out, but many of them are still afraid” said Jamie Kennedy, assistant manager of Dudley’s bar on Thomas Street.

“People are not knowing if they can come in and start a new job, and a few weeks later the place could be closed,”

“…it’s a period where people are just going to stay at home and let it sits all over”, said Jamie.

Not only Dudley’s, other pubs, restaurants, and venues in the hospitality are facing the same issue. A staff member at Lucky’s bar on Meath Street said it’s ‘so hard’ to find staff even though they raised the pay rate; and because of that, the other staffs need to work extra hour.

The are many factors that affect the labor shortage in the industry. Not just because people are hesitated to come to work. A survey by RAI suggests 57% of businesses describe the loss of international workers as significant. The association is asking the government to secure more work permits to attract workers from abroad.

On the other hand, SIPTU points out working condition is what made people stay away from the industry rather than the pandemic unemployment payment. In a discussion with Oireachtas members, Denis Hynes, SIPTU representative described hospitality as ‘not an attractive sector at the moment’, ‘workers are treated badly’ and even more in post-pandemic.

A survey by Dr. Deirdre Curran suggests 63% hospitality workers witnessed or experienced bullying, 70% did not get Sunday Premium and 12% were paid below the minimum wage.

According to a recent report by Bord Bia, hospitality sector won’t be fully recovered until 2023 at the earliest. The report predicts labor shortage and on-going restrictions will continue to be two in eight critical factors facing the industry in the coming year.

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