Foreign workers plug gap as Sidmouth hotel staff shortage bites
PUBLISHED: 15:00 17 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:39 22 August 2018
Hotels in Sidmouth are being forced to take on foreign members of staff because the supply of local talent has ‘dried up’, a hotelier has claimed.
Those who do apply for vacancies are just ‘box ticking’ to keep their benefits, says Ken Cumming - the general manager of The Harbour Hotel.
Ken has now called for action, urging for more to be done to make the industry appealing.
He said: “The situation we are in at the moment is absolutely dire. As far as local staff are concerned there’s nothing.
“They’ve simply dried up.”
Ken said, currently, more than 40 per cent of his staff were from other countries. These include Eastern Europeans, Portuguese and Spanish workers.
“We are all in the same situation which is that we are reliant on foreign staff to maintain the business,” he added.
“We say they should be fluent in English but you can get away with it in certain areas like cleaning and making beds.”
He said South Africans and Australians were also now returning to Sidmouth after years of absence, due to visa difficulties.
Anna Webb, personnel manager for Sidmouth Hotels, that includes The Elizabeth, The Kingswood and Devoran and Dukes, said: “It’s very difficult. In previous years we had a choice of people. Now we’re competing with other hotels.”
The hoteliers claimed that the problem was only exacerbated by the town’s low unemployment and high cost of living. And, they were increasingly having to compete with hotels in Exeter, that could pay more, and many did not want to work the unsociable hours.
Ken said: “The youngsters coming out of college are looking for an easy job and this is not an easy job. The only people we get applying for a position are those who are on benefits and have to be seen to be applying for a job,” he added.
Anna agreed: “We get a huge amount of people who are simply ticking a box so they can carry on claiming benefits.”
The hoteliers claimed one of the problems with taking on foreign labour was that it was often transient. And, wages in some European countries were now comparable, reducing the incentive to come here.
Anna said: “Getting youngsters into hospitality as a career is quite difficult. Lots of people use it as a bit of a stopgap.”
Ken added: “We put a lot of time and money into training people. What we would like is permanent staff to reduce the turnover.”