Nfld. & Labrador

Happy Valley-Goose Bay businesses struggling to find staff

Restaurants and hotels in Happy Valley-Goose Bay are having trouble finding workers ever since the temporary foreign workers program was put on hold last spring.
A help-wanted sign in the window of a Jungle Jims and hotel in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. (CBC)

Restaurants and hotels in Happy Valley-Goose Bay are having trouble finding workers ever since the temporary foreign workers program was put on hold last spring.

The federal government placed a moratorium on the program last April after reports that some workers were being treated poorly.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay has been hit especially hard by the move, with some business owners saying they simply can't find new staff to keep their operations going.

Lloyd Hillier, who owns a Jungle Jims restaurant and a local hotel, said he needs people to fill all kinds of jobs but he just can't find them.

"There's nobody to pull from," he said.

"We're applying for cooks, wait staff, housekeeping, they're all being applied for, front desk staff ... (but) there's no reply. There is nobody here to fill the positions."

Competing with Muskrat Falls

Hillier is not the only one frustrated. The owner of the local Tim Hortons franchise said they're short by nearly 20 staff with no idea how to fill the jobs.

Lloyd Hillier says he can't find workers to staff his businesses ever since the temporary foreign workers program was put on hold last April. (CBC)

Hillier says the issue is two-fold — with the Muskrat Falls project offering local workers high salaries, businesses in the area simply can't compete.  

He said because he's no longer allowed to bring in temporary foreign workers, his business is hurting.

"We're in a small town, you know, 7,000 people," he told CBC News.

"We're not in Toronto where there's lots of people. In our industry, we need a lot of people, and the pay scale is not high like they're offering at Muskrat, so we understand that."

In September, Hillier went to London, England for a job fair co-ordinated by the provincial government. The idea was to find new staff to bring back to Newfoundland and Labrador.  

Hillier spent more than $8,000 on the trip and got a great response from people in the U.K.

However, it's been six months since then, and so far not one application he received has been approved by the province. He thinks the government needs to realize that if something isn't done soon, businesses are going to start shutting their doors.

"There are lots of people that want to come in, they're waiting to come in," he said.

"The ball is in the government's court. They are not ready to play ball. The government has to get that ball out and bounce it around and let's get moving here so that everybody can be looked after."

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