Labour shortage: Bay of Plenty businesses can’t find staff some quitting at smoko on first day

Workers are quitting at smoko time on their first day and others aren’t bothering to show up for interviews due to a glut of job opportunities in the market, bosses say.

And the uphill battle to replace employees amid the labour crisis is placing extreme pressure on existing staff – with one manufacturing director warning a ”mental health tsunami is coming”.

Tasman Aluminium managing director Phill Brangwynne said he could hire 10 people tomorrow.

”We had three people booked for an interview last week, and not one showed up … need I say more. We have been advertising for weeks, and we cannot find anyone.”

Demand had never been so high and the business was ”running over capacity”, he said.

“We’re really struggling.”

Supply chain woes meant ships were not arriving in time, and products were on backorder across the board.Lead times were stretching out as a result and the company has also had to shoulder a multitude of price increases.

”In short, we have never worked so hard for so little return.”

During the Omicron outbreak, 50 per cent of the firm’s staff had to isolate over a two-week period.

”My staff are tired, and stressed out and the last two years has taken a significant mental toll on us.”

In his view, there was no recognition of the challenges companies were facing and no support from Government.

”A mental health tsunami is coming,” he said.

”The level of expectation that everyone is having to deal with is just not sustainable. I’m concerned and we’re watching our staff very carefully. We’re trying to support them as best we can holistically because we are worried about the mental effects of all this.”

He said customers were losing patience with delays and ”unfortunately, our guys on the frontline, in the sales team or in production or supply are bearing the brunt of it”.

Pukepine director Jeff Tanner made headlines last month when he told NZME he desperately needed another 30 full-time workers and he was back working in the sawmill and distribution.

Asked if that situation had improved he said it could be another month before it got any traction on the employment front.

”There is just not the people out there to be able to make a change in an instant.”

Tanner said it was tough, and forestry and manufacturing roles were ”not necessarily the most attractive work”.

”We get people that do show up and then they leave at smoko time and we never see them again. You really have to have your head in the right space and your attitude right to enjoy it.”

Harbourside Restaurant owner Peter Ward scaled back from opening from seven days to five as he struggled to find workers and saw the impact this was having on his current staff.

”I’d prefer to close a couple of days than dilute my service. In the summer months, I had less of a crew in the kitchen and I could see the extra hours were having an effect on them.”

Last month the restaurant closed for more than a week because staff were isolating.

Ward was currently working as a maitre d’ and said the hospitality industry was in crisis.

”A lot of my chefs have come in from overseas and then that stopped completely. In the past two years, I lost four chefs and have only been able to replace one.

”It’s always been a bit of an issue but this is depressing.”

”We’ve had ads on Trade Me and Seek looking for staff and nothing has come through at all so it’s probably the worst I have seen it in 30 years.”

Thinkplus leadership coach Claire Russell said she had noticed an increase in stress and staff feeling overwhelmed in Bay workplaces as the demand for services increased.

In her view, subsidised financial support could be provided to help organisations meet their legal requirements for a positive, productive workplace.

”We wouldn’t expect the diagnosis and managing of long Covid be left to the employer to deal with and fund so why would the symptoms of mental distress brought on by Covid be managed and funded by the employer.”

In response to the concerns, Health Minister Andrew Little said $10 million was made available in October for mental health and wellbeing support for small businesses through a new programme.

Minister Little said most people at some time had felt overwhelmed, anxious, sad, generally hōhā [annoyed] because of Covid and the disruption it caused.

”It is okay to not feel okay, and natural that everyone can find themselves experiencing these feelings.

“If they need help with these feelings they can tell a mate, a workmate, or tell someone they trust. If that’s not possible then there are telehealth services and online services available. Some GP and community health clinics can help too.”

1st Call Recruitment managing director Phil van Syp said employers across the board were fighting for staff amid the labour shortage.

He had 100 jobs in the Bay of Plenty including roles in civil construction, roading, building, labouring and manufacturing.

”Hopefully, we will attract a few more people now the borders are opening but everything is pumping and it’s incredibly difficult at the moment.”

Caitlin Hendrikse from Personnel Resources / Temp Resources in Rotorua said there was a shortage across all industries but more companies were training people and wages were increasing.

Ribbonwood NZ director Pete Smith said the forestry industry was on the ”cusp of a crisis” as it struggled to replace its ageing workforce.

In his view, the younger generation was not interested in physical work and if Kiwis didn’t want the jobs bringing in more migrants would be essential.

”Some of my own workforce are in their mid-50s to mid-60s and those people can’t work forever and don’t intend to so we need to replace them.’

Ministry for Social Development regional commissioner Mike Bryant said figures show the number of people on work-ready Jobseeker support had fallen from 19,443 to 18,525 in the past three months.

The Ministry worked in partnership with employers to provide opportunities for people to gain skills. There was funding and support for employers who were prepared to give a hand up to those who struggle to connect to the workforce

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