The pandemic effect – which saw many restaurants and bars forced to lay off workers for months on end – has had a negative effect on staffing levels, and continued governmental support hasn’t helped that situation as it currently stands, Tewatohnhi’saktha’s Counselling Services Manager for Workforce Development said.
“I’ve had quite a few businesses approach me about finding some human resources,” Roiahtate Horn, the Manager for Counselling Services for the Workforce Development Department at Kahnawake’s economic development commission.
He said despite a lack of human resources being a problem across the board, it’s front-facing businesses who are struggling to fill public-facing positions, like receptionist or clerical work – the first ones to be let go when an easily-spread contagion becomes a public-heath emergency.
It’s also common to see signs on many businesses’ doors that reflect a change in their usual hours of business due to a lack of employees.
Horn added that due to the staff shortages at many businesses, those employees who are still working face burnout, depression or worse.
“It’s a perfect storm of factors,” he said. “You have businesses that are short of employees, and you have other employees being asked to make up more hours and some of those employees are dealing with burnout or other factors. It’s a vicious cycle. I can say with some certainty that people are working a lot of overtime and it’s very much a concern for many businesses.”
One other factor to consider, Horn said, is that for many multigenerational homes in Kahnawake, COVID-19 and its variants are still a concern.
“There are a lot of families with elders living with them, or with young kids who aren’t yet able to get vaccinated, so they have legitimate concerns about the pandemic and the variants,” he said, adding it’s tough to get people to come in and work with the public for what equates to about the same amount of money as an entry-level or service-industry job might make.
“We’ve also seen that for those people that are on government assistance, for some of them it’s more attractive to collect $500 a week instead of making close to that, or that much, working at a job,” Horn added.
How long might businesses be stuck between the rock of having too few employees and the hard place of having those who are employed be overworked?
“It’s hard to say,” Horn said. “A lot of people have changed careers and a lot of people have moved on. It’s going to take some time, I think.”
Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase