Quebec City garage owners scramble to find workers

With high employment rates and warm weather, garage owners in the Quebec City region are going to great lengths to find auto mechanics at this time of year.

Warm autumn, high local employment rates means smaller pool of available workers

Winter tires are mandatory in Quebec from Dec. 15 to March 15. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

The first snowflake has yet to fall on Quebec City's narrow streets, but garage owners in the region are hard at work trying find enough workers to install their clients' winter tires.

That's because auto mechanics have become difficult to come by.

''The warm weather has postponed our normal recruitment,'' said Charlyne Ratté, the vice-president of Groupe Ratté. 

Ratté said seasonal workers who normally transition to changing tires in the fall are still at work doing landscaping and other outdoor jobs.
Charlyne Ratté says recruitment is always a challenge but this year is particularly difficult. (Radio-Canada)

The balmy weather isn't the only factor at play — the Quebec City region has one of the highest employment rates in the country.

The latest numbers published by Statistics Canada this week show that unemployment rates in the province remain low at six per cent for the month of September.

While the province lost 7,600 jobs in September, the Quebec City region only had 4.1 per cent of the population was out of work.

Recruiting abroad

Ratté said drawing from such a small pool of available workers means companies have to work harder to get noticed.

''We have 180 positions to fill,'' said Ratté, who held an open-house on Saturday to meet candidates. ''We hire them on the spot and give them training ourselves."

Antony Lachance, a supervisor at Desharnais Pneus & Mécanique, is also holding an open house next week. 

''There weren't as many people available this year,'' said Lachance, who supervises twice as many employees in the fall.
Antony Lachance, foreman at Desharnais Pneus et Mécanique, says twice as many workers are needed in the fall. (Radio-Canada)

Lachance said the company has started recruiting in South America because worker shortage is an ongoing issue.

''It's a long process but we don't really have a choice,'' he said.

Both companies suggest people not wait until the last minute to change their tires, but they say service shouldn't be affected.

Sophie Senneville, CEO at, said there is another reason which could explain why some garages have a hard time recruiting employees.

''What they tell us very often is they don't feel the pay is sufficient,'' said Senneville.

She said shops with collective bargaining agreements are less affected, and agrees foreign workers are a good short-term solution.

With files from Claude Rivest and Radio-Canada