Brexit-backing Tory MS says ‘immigration changes’ are causing recruitment crisis
Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
A Brexit-supporting Senedd Member has conceded “changes to immigration” have played a part in a recruitment crisis hitting the hospitality sector in the north of Wales.
Janet Finch-Saunders, MS for Aberconwy, is urging those in the region’s hospitality sector to join her for a “virtual round table” session next month, to address a “staff shortage” in the industry.
Workers from many EU countries found employment within hospitality prior to Brexit but that and the onset of the pandemic saw many move to other industries, leave the country entirely or stick with their current roles because they were on furlough.
The advent of Brexit, when Britain officially left the European Union at 11pm on January 31 this year, compounded the problem according to sector experts.
It all amounted to a lack of talent coming into what was already an industry with a high staff turnover.
Recruitment site caterer.com said as many as one in 10 workers had quit hospitality after the pandemic started.
Tourism brings in an estimated £1.8bn to the regional economy, but research by the Trade Union Congress found close to 75% of hotel workers in Wales are not paid the Real Living Wage of £9.50 an hour.
Now Mrs Finch-Saunders, who in 2017 said “tourism can boom with Brexit”, said she wants to find a solution to the crisis facing employers in the hospitality sector.
She called it the “backbone” of North Wales’ economy and said it was “time we stop talking these industries down”.
She added: “I urge any local business impacted by the staff shortage to sign up to the meeting.”
When pressed whether she thought the ending of free movement had affected the industry’s ability to recruit in sufficient numbers, she said there were a number of factors.
“There are many disparate issues which have contributed to the present shortage,” she said. “Covid-19, changes to immigration, unclear direct routes from formal education, an entrenched reputational challenge, as well as the issue of wage levels – all of these will be addressed in my virtual meeting.
“I am clear there is no simple solution to this matter. However, with the unemployment rate hovering around 4.7%, we should be working overtime to make clear the potential these sectors provide.
“The possibilities exist to earn a steady wage and build up skills – highlighting this fact should be central to any future support package.
“This urgent conversational reset must be led by Cardiff Bay, with any positive proposals for change recognising the difficulties felt even before the pandemic.”