Tony O’Neill, executive chairman of retailer SandpiperCI Group, said there had been a Brexit-related exodus of workers – and changes to the licensing regime in both Guernsey and Jersey are needed.
‘I read that it’s obviously very, very bad in hospitality. And we see some of that with some of our brands. But it’s not very good in retail either,’ he said.
‘It’s probably worse in Guernsey than in Jersey, but it’s no bed of roses in Jersey either. And the governments in both islands have got their sums wrong in terms of the available pool of labour that’s there to be able to serve the customers.’
While local businesses are running the ‘best ship’ possible, all of them need to have a pool of quality labour that they can pull from to have quality operations and serve the customers appropriately.
‘That is something that government urgently needs to look at, not just on behalf of the retail industry but on behalf of all consumer-facing industries.’
Guernsey has always been more ‘onerous’ in terms of worker licences, added Mr O’Neill, while Jersey was not as bad but had got more difficult when it came to its licensing regime.
Smaller locally-based businesses could suffer the most, with wages increasing in a tight labour market. It would also become more of an issue as the tourism industry returns and there is nobody to serve pints or coffee.
Calling for action, Mr O’Neill said: ‘It is well documented. There have been enough people talking about this.
‘What we need to see is action from the government – and we need to see it this side of the summer. We can’t be hanging around for another three months while they debate the pros and cons of it.’