Worker shortage continues
BY TIM LAMACRAFT
A SHORTAGE of workers still plagues businesses across the region, leading to reduced operating hours and last-minute cancellations, particularly in the hospitality, retail and tourism sectors.
Damian Cerantonio, president of Anglesea Traders, says a lack of rentals and affordable housing is a major factor but COVID restrictions are similarly hampering staffing.
“The biggest worry is if it gets through the workforce, if we lose our whole team, or even a portion, how would we keep things going?”
A national definition for close contacts was adopted by National Cabinet last week that eases pressure on some workers being forced to isolate, now applying to those who have spent four or more hours with a COVID case in a home or similar setting. Within 24 hours of the announcement it amended the requirement for confirmed cases to return a negative rapid antigen test before ending their seven day isolation if they no longer have symptoms, but those deemed close contacts will still have to return a negative rapid antigen test on day six of isolation.
Go Ride a Wave surf school, that operates out of five locations between Ocean Grove and Wye River, has struggled to attract staff.
“We had no idea if we were going to be operating, it’s hard to offer work if you don’t know if you’re going to be open,” said its director, Nathan Taylor.
Daily surf classes are being fully booked, but the spectre of COVID-19 remains an issue for the business and customers alike.
“Staff are cancelling at last minute due to COVID, so too people who’ve booked for our classes,” he said.
“But I guess that’s something we’re all coming to terms with.”
Damian Cerantonio, who also manages the Great Ocean Roads Resort, says the business is now operating at full capacity.
“Accommodation and the hotel are up to 100 per cent occupancy. The Coast [restaurant] is now open seven days, but pre-Christmas it was down to four,” he said.
“We could easily accommodate another five therapists [at the Day Spa] but we’re knocking people back, we’re booked out two to three weeks in advance.”
The Lorne Business Tourism Association (LTBA) says Foodworks has had a couple of COVID scares, prompting closures of services like the deli and the Lorne Hotel is having to close Monday and Tuesday due to lack of staff.
In a bid to find accommodation for workers priced out of the region, the LTBA launched its Adopt a Worker scheme in late November, but despite some offers of rooms or houses the groups vice-president, Leon Walker, says there not the workers to fill them.
Extended wait times, queues and staffing shortages has prompted the “great things are worth the wait” slogan from Tourism Greater Geelong & the Bellarine.
“We’re asking people to appreciate that businesses may well be struggling to operate at full capacity and things may take longer than usual,” said executive director Brett Ince.
“Stay calm, enjoy the space we have, take time to enjoy.”