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Staff shortages: the battle for labour

The problem of Britain’s ‘missing workers’ is biting hard across sectors

The Food and Drink Federation has warned of an intensifying “battle for labour” in the run-up to Christmas. Amazon is taking no chances, said The Observer. The online giant is offering generous “signing-up bonuses” of up to £3,000 in its effort to recruit 20,000 temporary staff. The move has been slammed by business groups as “a knockout blow” for smaller outfits. But the incentives are controversial in-house, too. “It leaves workers who have been there for years feeling rather undervalued and underappreciated,” one warehouse worker told the BBC. “They are training people who are making more money than them.” 

The problem of Britain’s “missing workers” – the ONS reported a record 1.2 million vacancies last month – is biting hard across sectors, said Tim Wallace and Tom Rees in The Sunday Telegraph. “More than three-quarters of businesses attempting to recruit” have “reported difficulties” according to the British Chambers of Commerce. The latest hot commodity appears to be “bouncers”, said Joanna Partridge in The Guardian. Some estimates suggest nightclubs and other venues are “having to pay security staff about 25% more” than pre-pandemic. 

In hospitality, shortages are already hitting the bottom line, said Dominic Walsh in The Times. The restaurant group D&D London (formerly Conran Restaurants) reckons it has lost 10% of revenues. With wages growing at their fastest rate in two decades, and the volume of Google searches for “leave job” up by 50% since the start of the pandemic, “the power balance between workers and firms is shifting”, said Tortoise. That’s bad news for companies, but possibly “a good thing for entrepreneurship”. After collapsing during the pandemic, “the number of self-employed workers is now ticking up, as are the number of new businesses”.

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