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Our View: When will hotel staff shortages be addressed?

hotel industry, hotels

Famagusta hoteliers are becoming anxious about the failure of the government to make a decision about the employment of workers from third countries. The Famagusta branch of the Hoteliers Association (Pasyxe) said in an announcement the “the shortage of staff is serious” and “puts at risk the operation of hotel units.”

While bookings indicate it will be another good season, hotels are now faced with the danger of not being able to operate because the government has still not addressed the issue of foreign workers. Labour Minister Kyriakos Koushos said at the start of the month that his aim was to have the regulations for the employment of third country workers approved before the change of government, but he is running out of time.

In effect the government has a little over a week left, as there will only be one more meeting of the council of ministers left, sometime next week. The new government may have more pressing issues to deal with when it takes over, not to mention that there will be a new labour minister, who will need some time to become familiar with his brief.

To make matters worse, there is a dispute between unions and the employers’ organisation over how the plan will be implemented. The former want a maximum of 30 per cent of the workforce of a business to be third country nationals and the latter 50 per cent, while there is also disagreement over whether foreign workers should be covered by collective agreements. A new minister would also have to find some compromise, which could take a while. Public support of Nicos Christodoulides’ candidacy by the SEK union federation could make the new government more sympathetic to the unions’ position.

Hotels open for the tourist season by the beginning of April and there is a real danger there would be no agreement in place. What happens then? How will the hotels operate with skeleton staff? A hotel could offer significantly higher wages to take workers from another hotel, but a war for employees would have disastrous consequences for the industry and for tourism.

The reality is that the matter cannot be left to be settled by the new government, as unions have been demanding, probably in the belief that it would be more sympathetic to their positions. Koushos needs to make the arrangements now and submit them for cabinet approval as he does not need the consent of either side to do so. There might be protests by the unions, but the government would be acting within its rights in approving regulations, and has an obligation to make the decision now for the good of the economy.

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