North

No labour shortage for Klondike tourist season, Dawson City businesses say

Despite rumours of a labour shortage in Dawson City, many business owners in the Klondike say they are not worried about finding enough workers for the busy summer tourist season.

Despite chronic housing shortage, most business says they're finding enough workers

A Help Wanted sign hangs in the window of Sourdough Joe's restaurant in Dawson City. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

Despite rumours of a labour shortage in Dawson City, many business owners in the Klondike say they're not worried about finding enough workers for the busy summer tourist season.

"I don't have any blues to sing here at all," said Brad Whitelaw, who owns and operates the Triple J Hotel, the Klondike Spirit paddlewheeler and an outfitting company in Dawson.

"With the three companies that we run there's about 75 on staff. We have a lot of returning staff and it's worked out well and we're not really experiencing any shortages yet," he said.

Dawson City business owner Brad Whitelaw says his three businesses, which rely on summer tourism, have not had problems attracting workers this summer. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)
"The summer crunch of all the people to come visiting hasn't happened yet, but we're very confident that we'll be fine."

Dawson's summer tourist season relies on an annual influx of transient service industry workers, many of whom struggle to find housing for the season. While there are concerns about what that housing shortage does to the job market, business owners say their operations aren't threatened.

Whitelaw said he provides staff housing and forges a good relationship with his employees, which encourages them to return. Other businesses who provide staff housing likewise say they have no trouble with staffing.

Like any other summer

Gary Parker, executive director of the Klondike Visitors Association, which operates Diamond Tooth Gertie's, said the casino and bar doesn't yet have its full complement of between 50 and 60 workers. But that's the same as any other summer, he said.

"For sure it is a continuing challenge to find workers, but that's nothing new for us," Parker said, adding many workers often work multiple jobs to save money over the season.

Parker acknowledged the housing crunch plays a role in making it harder to find staff, but said housing shortages are common in most smaller Yukon communities.

A quick scan of the job postings at Dawson City's employment outreach centre shows significant demand for food service workers such as waitstaff, dishwashers and line cooks.

But even at Sourdough Joe's restaurant on Front Street, which has a bright orange Help Wanted sign in the front window, owner Constantin Bastounis isn't worried.

They will come

Bastounis said his restaurant normally has a peak staff of 25 to 30 and he's hired eight workers so far. But he said staff, many of whom are university students in the south, will come.

He said Dawson does need more housing for summer workers and thinks the old Tent City, a ramshackle camp for summer workers that was closed down several years ago, should be re-opened.

But Bastounis said he's accustomed to high staff turnover and sharing workers with other businesses in town.

"Mostly they are part-timers who have another job," he said. "That's how Dawson City works."

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