Rotorua Daily Post
Staff shortages ‘dire’
Business turns down $30k of work, another says economy has ‘run out’ of workers
One Rotorua hospitality business has lost $30,000 in potential work over the past two months due to “dire” staff shortages, while a trucking boss is wondering where all the tradespeople have gone.
The news comes as the average salary in the October to December quarter jumped 4 per cent in the city year-on-year to $58,994, with hospitality and tourism experiencing the biggest jump at
9 per cent. However, that sector continues to struggle.
Chef on the Mish owner Wayne Wright has been looking for kitchen assistants for six months.
“When Covid hit we had a whole heap of people leave the industry. They went and re-skilled and re-tooled.”
Wright said six people, two from overseas, applied for positions but he was still searching.
Over the past two months, he had to turn down $30,000 in work.
He said it was “dire”. “It’s pretty **** really, to be honest, when this is one of the driving industries in Rotorua . . . I’m working 50 hours on a slow week.”
Hennessy’s Irish Bar owner Reg Hennessy said the industry was “terribly short of good hospitality staff in all areas”.
“No longer can pay or working conditions be blamed for this. Hennessy’s are in need of good hospitality workers and as an industry, we are all working very hard to attract and retain good people. We offer ongoing training, career pathways and good working conditions.
“I really don’t know what more we can do.”
Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said in the Bay of Plenty, employee numbers remained static from 2021 to 2022 despite the number of outlets growing by 5.4 per cent.
Skills shortages typically resulted in owners working long hours, reducing opening times, and services being stretched.
“The Bay of Plenty is a key tourist area and businesses in this region want to be able to offer visitors a great dining experience, but this is challenging when you are not fully staffed. With a low unemployment rate and the current immigration settings, it is incredibly challenging to find sufficient people to meet our staffing needs – we are not the only industry experiencing this.”
Most employers (78 per cent) were providing free meals and almost a third were providing bonuses, she said.
Hospitality could offer a rewarding career and lifestyle, she said.
‘They seem to have disappeared off overseas’
Williams & Wilshier fleet service manager Peter Withington said its search for a qualified heavy-duty truck mechanic had attracted applicants from Asia, Africa and Europe and none were suitable.
Withington did not know where all the tradespeople had disappeared to.
“They seemed to have disappeared off overseas where they don’t have to work the hours that we have got to work.”
BOP Plumbing and Gas commercial manager Sarah Jamieson agreed there was a significant shortage of qualified tradespeople.
The business had opened a branch in Te Puke and had an influx of overseas applicants.
“Money is not always everything, along with a competitive hourly rate you need to be offering a good place to work, that comes down to culture, and additional perks outside of your standard hourly rate.
“We like to think that we pay competitively and offer a good work environment.”
Master Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers chief executive Greg Wallace said workforce shortages remained one concern in the sector.
“The reality is a lot of our apprentices are doing their OES and it’s heightened numbers because of the backlog that has been locked up for three years.”
Wages were also considerably higher in Australia and the United Kingdom.
National Road Carriers chief executive Justin Tighe-umbers said the skills shortage across the transport industry was affecting more than drivers — “the entire economy has run out of workers”.
“Things are getting real for many sectors including the transport industry which is seeing service shortages now reaching acute levels. Trucks are being forced off the road for longer because there is a shortage of mechanics, certifying the number construction engineers and vehicle testing staff, and this is on top of the shortage of parts.”
‘More families making Rotorua home’
Personnel Resources Rotorua consultant Emma Henderson said “more families were making Rotorua home” and bringing new skills.
The most sought-after jobs were those offering more benefits and “feel-good” roles could attract up to 150 applicants.
“Employers seem to be more aware of the importance of a great team, good, working environment and culture so they are retaining good staff by providing higher salaries, benefits, flexibility around hours and working from home options.”
The hardest roles to fill included general managers, chief executives and accountants while human resources, health and safety, payroll and IT were also taking longer.
Latest Trade Me data shows the average salary in the Rotorua district was $58,994 in Q4 last year, up 4 per cent year-on-year and there was no change in the number of job listings.
Hospitality and tourism average salaries jumped by 9 per cent to $58,994, engineering 8 per cent to $87,571, transport and logistics 7 per cent to $62,402, manufacturing and operations 7 per cent to $60,073 and legal 6 per cent to $91,607.
Trade Me jobs sales director Matt Tolich said there was no denying it was still a competitive market for employers.
“For those businesses that have attempted to hire over the past couple of years but had little success, our numbers show it might be worth trying again in 2023.”
Ryan and Alexander recruitment company executive consultant Liz Kennedy said the job market had started to slow down in March after a busy start to the year, however there was still a limited number of suitable candidates.
Technical roles including engineering, planners or senior finance, marketing and communications were hard to fill.
People were still moving jobs but that behaviour was changing and “it’s a strange year, there is much talk of recession and we have an election coming up.”
Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said recruitment was one of the biggest issues facing retailers and there were several thousand jobs nationally.
“There just aren’t enough people out there looking for jobs to fill the roles that we have available.”
‘Good people being targeted by employers and head-hunters’
Rotorua Business Chamber chief executive Bryce Heard said the demand for good staff had been strong since the borders reopened.
It was driven primarily by the tourism and hospitality sector which saw wages lift and “good people being targeted by employers and head-hunters”. However, he was concerned that phase was turning around with inflation, rising living and interest costs, a general slowing of the economy and the onset of autumn.
“At this stage it looks more like a steadying of the ship than an economic recession.”
In his view, it was vitally important the council and Government continued with selective investment and development and “not go into their shells if we are to avoid a wider and longer lasting economic downturn at a local level”.
Rotoruanz chief executive Andrew Wilson said economic data for the December 2022 quarter showed there were 33,128 jobs — up from 32,164 the year before — while jobseeker numbers declined by 8.5 per cent year on year.
Consumer spending had jumped by 10.2 per cent and Rotorua was outpacing the rest of the country in GDP growth, increasing by 3 per cent year-on-year.
“The data suggests that there continues to be a significant issue with workforce shortages. Over the last quarter, there have been 575 hospitality and tourism job listings advertised on Seek. Anecdotally we have heard that this continues to be the number one issue facing our tourism and hospo businesses.”
"The situation is grim . . . I’m working 50 hours on a slow week." Wayne Wright