The recruitment of specialist European workers in the Irish hospitality sector could help save the Christmas season this year, according to the restaurant sector.
The Restaurants Association of Ireland wants immediate action on recruiting for the Irish tourism and hospitality sectors in European countries, in a bid to address the staffing difficulties in the sector.
It has made the call in its pre-budget submission for Budget 2023.
The RAI says the last quarter of this year, including the Christmas season, will be vital for the hospitality sector “with the majority of income made at this time of year so seasonal staffing by specialist European workers would save the season”.
The submission seeks a number of occupations such as hotel and accommodation managers, restaurant and catering establishment managers and catering and bar managers to be applicable for general work permits in Ireland, to help attract foreign workers to the industry.
It is also calling for resourcing of Government departments and sections “to ensure timely processing of applications critical for workers and businesses; visas, work permits and PPS numbers”.
The submission adds that adequate resourcing of the Workplace Relations Commission is needed to ensure continued inspections and relevant investigations and oversight of employment law.
The restaurant sector is also calling on the Government to extend the 9% VAT rate beyond next February. It was introduced for the sector to help offset the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In May, the Government extended the special rate to next February but the RAI wants it to run until February 2025.
The need for the creation of a national tourism and hospitality training authority is another inclusion in the submission, which also features a contribution from economist Jim Power.
He says the trading environment in the sector is challenging for a number of reasons.
“In an economy approaching full-employment and in a sector that saw a significant exit of skilled personnel during the Covid-19 restrictions, the recruitment and retention of labour is proving a major challenge,” he says.
Wage costs are rising strongly. However, of greater concern is the fact that many restaurants are under significant pressure to provide a full service due to staff shortages across all occupations within the sector.
“The capacity to deliver ‘business as normal’ is proving very challenging for many restaurant businesses.”
He says in addition to the significant staffing issues, other costs such as energy and raw material prices such as food are rising strongly.
“There is pressure on restaurants to increase prices, but the rate of price increase in the restaurant sector is significantly behind the pace of price increases in the economy in general, and particularly in other areas of hospitality, such as accommodation.”