How flexible is our immigration flexibility?

CONFIRMATION that the island has a staffing crisis in its hospitality sector will reinforce what many have been aware of for months – their favourite pub, restaurant or hotel struggling to provide a quality service with too few staff.

But what one well-known hotel boss described as a perfect storm of Brexit, Covid-19, and what they see as the island’s restrictive approach to housing and permits, actually goes beyond that for Guernsey plc itself.

Easing pandemic restrictions, proximity and massive pent-up demand from people desperate to get away on holiday should be the biggest boost to local tourism since British Rail used decades ago to send staff here on cheap holidays.

Now the island’s hospitality offering has managers doubling up as toilet cleaners, kitchens closing despite having customers to feed, and establishments not opening to give staff a break.

What should be the island’s greatest opportunity to showcase its amazing welcome, spectacular scenery and top-quality produce to win repeat visits for years to come has become a desperate battle not to disappoint customers while protecting over-stressed staff from burn-out.

Brexit and the pandemic are outside of Guernsey’s control – but facilitating recruitment is not. How the States responds to the latest cry for help to ease these staff shortages will provide some insight into the Government Work Plan’s priorities on recovery actions.

The population and migration regime wasn’t fit for purpose when introduced and now appears an active economic disabler. Bureaucracy has to be overturned, and hiring decisions returned to bosses.

These are unprecedented times and the Government Work Plan of itself will not get the island back on its feet. Business will – but not with one hand behind its back.

The States will say it has moved to assist, relaxing the controls it has with regard to local permits.

But that's clearly not enough to ease the problem. Industry and the States need a crisis plan to deal with this crippling staff shortage – government’s speed of response will be seen as an acid test of its commitment to ‘action this day’.

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