AHA calls on mature-aged workers to save Christmas

The Australian Hotels Association is asking mature-aged hospitality workers to come out of retirement to help the hotel industry survive extreme staff shortages over the busy Christmas holiday period.

AHA National CEO Stephen Ferguson said more than 100,000 positions were vacant across the sector nationally and hotels were being forced to close on certain days or reduce hours during their busiest period because they simply do not have the staff.

“Our industry is struggling to recover from the worst 18 months in our history and the recovery is being hampered by a dire skills shortage right across the nation but especially along the east coast,” he said.

“The return of international students and working holiday makers will be slow, but we have an army of skilled mature age workers here that we need to tap into.

“There is a pool of retired people out there and many older workers who lost jobs during the pandemic and these people have the ‘soft skills’ needed to work in a pub. They are reliable, hard-working and mature – and we need their help.”

Cobargo Hotel owner Dave Allen said he specifically targeted older people in his South Coast community, offering free training for anyone willing to give the job a go, and it saved him.

“Since the bushfires devastated this community we have seen an increase in tourism, people have been coming here to support us but it has been a blessing and a curse because we just don’t have any workers,” said Allen.

“We lost 3000 homes in the fires so there is no accommodation here, many of our young people leave to work in the city and without backpackers we had no one. I was working seven days a week and thinking about closing the pub every Monday.

“But we do have a big retired community down here so I put up a sign in the pub asking for help and we now have four new women on staff, who do a couple of days a week each.

“They did RSA, RCG and a barista course online for free, they are keen and they are working out great. They are a godsend. I think there needs to be a national program promoting our industry as one not just for kids but for everyone. This group is our way out of this crisis in the short-term.”

Katrina Jones, 51, returned to hospitality after a decade away from the industry. She started behind the bar at the Cobargo Hotel about three weeks ago.

“I thought, oh well, pulling a beer is like riding a bike,” she told The Australian. “It’s been a bit hectic at times, but it’s interesting and got me meeting people I wouldn‘t have met before, so I’m enjoying it.

“I was a bit nervous but the people who are here are friendly and didn’t make me feel bad while learning the ropes.”

Ferguson said the Federal Government had made some changes to the pension so retirees could work and not lose benefits, and said the AHA was in discussions on more changes to help encourage more mature aged workers into the industry.

Pictured main: Cobargo Hotel owner Dave Allen with NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello, Member for Bega Andrew Constance and Bega Valley Shire Councillor Tony Allen. 

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