‘Serious shortage’ of staff sees some pubs close to let workers take holidays

Oireachtas Committee to hear many staff have left industry to take up jobs elsewhere

A “serious shortage” of staff means some pubs have had to close to allow workers to go on holidays, politicians will be told on Wednesday.

Difficulty recruiting staff means many pubs are closing for two days per week and there is concern that Ireland’s tourism offering is suffering.

Pubs were among the businesses worst-hit during the Covid-19 pandemic when they were subject to lengthy periods of closure and restrictions.

The Oireachtas Committee on Tourism will on Wednesday hear that many staff left the industry to take up jobs elsewhere.

Paul Clancy, the chief executive of the Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI) - which represents publicans outside Dublin - is expected to tell TDs and Senators that the tourism and hospitality sector has "suffered a massive shock".

He said this has led to “a major challenge in attracting and retaining staff” and action is needed to address this.

His opening statement says the pandemic “played havoc with people’s lives and careers” and people have found alternative employment elsewhere.

Mr Clancy says the knock-on effect of the current skills shortage is that it is “restricting the capability of many businesses to survive.”

One way some pubs have had to adjust is to close for a period to allow existing employees annual leave.

He says there has also been reduced trading hours and additional hours worked by existing staff.

Inexperienced staff

Pubs are also said to be training new workers “who are both young and inexperienced” and wage rates have been “increased to meet the expectations of existing employees”.

Mr Clancy says: “This is not sustainable if businesses are to remain viable.”

He adds that there has been “a major impact on the tourism offering” and a “lack of trained, experienced staff will impact the quality of service.

“As we begin to reboot our tourism business this has the capacity to be a negative factor.”

Mr Clancy will call on the Government to ease work permit rules for non-European Union workers saying: “Given the context of the nature of employment in the pub sector, access to a visa-free labour pool is crucial.”

He will also seek an “immediate labour market analysis to determine the precise scale of the current problem” to help frame a response.

Representatives of the Licensed Vintners’ Association (LVA) - which represents publicans in the capital - will also appear at the committee.

Its submission to the committee says that 40 per cent of its members that responded to a survey have had to close premises since 2020 “solely due to staff shortages”. Some 39 per cent have reduced their trading week by two days.

Chefs and senior bar staff are identified as roles in demand. The LVA says: “The wage demand for chefs, at all levels is highly inflated and unsustainable”. It says it is “very challenging” to recruit experienced middle management and “roles are remaining open for months with next to no applicants.”

The LVA says: “The most important challenge facing the hospitality sector is the availability of skilled staff. It has the direct potential to inhibit the sector’s recovery post-pandemic.”

The LVA calls on the Government “to develop and resource a longer-term strategic suite of staff development and training options” and it is seeking an improved work visa system.