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lockdown fears Struggle to find hospitality staff for re-opening as coming off PUP ‘not worth it’ for many workers

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Restaurant, newsagent and café owners say they struggled to get staff for the Christmas re-opening amid fears of a third lockdown.

Some suffered staff shortages due to a drift of workers to more secure employers like supermarkets and pharmacies, which have not suffered as badly in the economic fallout from the virus.

Others said workers were reluctant to come off the pandemic unemployment payment for what could amount to just a few weeks work.

They spoke of their hiring hurdles as up to 150,000 people were predicted to return to work at shops, restaurants, pubs serving food, hairdressers and gyms after restrictions eased last week.

General manager of Dublin’s Suesey Street Restaurant and Bar, John Healy, said a lot of staff won’t come off the pandemic unemployment payment as they are afraid of another lockdown in January. He said others are living abroad.

“Others have taken up jobs in supermarkets and other industries,” he added.

“Plus the double payment (social welfare Christmas bonus due this week) and it’s just 21 days work, why bother? I also think a lot of restaurants won’t make it if we go into another lockdown.”

A café manager in Dublin city said it is not that there are no staff to hire, but there is more for people to weigh up.

“I know someone in the events business who had hundreds of people on his books and he got to number 27 on his list before he got a yes,” he said. “Bakers are hard to come by because there is a perception if they get into hospitality versus retail, it’s more unstable.

“Every pub in Ireland has become a café and the baristas have been snapped up or went into retail. Many floor staff are working in pharmacies.

“The thing is, the most experienced people are getting the higher rate of PUP and some may get a housing allowance, which means there’s more to weigh up.”

One employer said it was difficult for staff in lower-paid industries who are guaranteed up to €350 a week, and a Christmas bonus payment next week.

They had to weigh this up against potentially working for not a lot more depending on the hours, with the risk of being let go in January.

The pandemic payment is paid at four different rates, three of which are higher than the normal €203 weekly jobseekers payment – the rates are €203, €250, €300 and €350..

Richard Guiney of the Dublin Town business group said managers at two large grocery stores and a smaller fashion store told him they had problems finding staff.

“Some big retailers are not having problems, but many staff feel it’s not worth it this year,” he said.

“Many workers want to stick with the PUP and are worried that if they come off it, it might just be for a few weeks and then they could be out of work again.”

Chief executive of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association, Vincent Jennings, said it was getting more difficult to get staff to move from PUP if the hours on offer were not fulltime. Although his members have been permitted to open, they have been searching for seasonal staff.

“One member said I haven’t had a person coming in with a CV in six months,” he said.

“PUP is there for a good reason, and we would be decimated without it, but there is a shortage of staff.”

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