Restaurant group calls for emergency meeting with Prime Minister Harper to resolve labour shortage crisis

CHARLOTTETOWN, May 27, 2014 /CNW/ - The Board of Directors of Restaurants Canada is requesting an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to address a labour shortage that has reached crisis levels in some regions of the country.

In an unprecedented press conference, two dozen restaurant industry leaders from across Canada are standing together to emphasize the urgent need for action.  

"The recent moratorium on temporary foreign workers in the foodservice industry has turned the labour shortage into a crisis," said Restaurants Canada president and CEO Garth Whyte. "It's having a negative impact not only on business owners, but on their employees and customers as well."

"Board members from across the country identified the labour shortage crisis as the number one issue affecting their business," said Restaurants Canada Chair Liam Dolan, who owns and operates three foodservice businesses in Charlottetown. "We need the government to act now."

Restaurants Canada recommends a three-point action plan to alleviate the crisis:

1) End the moratorium on TFWs in the foodservice industry now

2) Strengthen the rules of the program to ensure there's no abuse, and

3) Allow restaurant owners who have exhausted all other options to hire foreign workers for positions at all skill levels.  

Dolan and two of his fellow board members shared their stories:

Gerard Curran, proprietor of James Joyce Irish Pub, Calgary:
"I've had to open my kitchen one hour later and close it one hour earlier because I'm operating at a 30 per cent shortage of labour. This situation is taking a toll on all my employees, including one who is in the hospital right now due to stress created by an increased workload and a lot of uncertainty."

Brenda O'Reilly, owner of YellowBelly Brewery and Public House, St. John's:
"This is about protecting Canadian jobs. I employ 120 people, including five foreign workers. Without these foreign workers, I'd have to cut back on hours, putting Newfoundlanders out of work. I've also turned down an opportunity to open a new restaurant, because I know I won't be able to staff it."

Liam Dolan, owner of Claddagh Oyster House, Olde Dublin Pub and Peake's Quay, Charlottetown:
"I'm extremely concerned about the tourist season in P.E.I. and how we are going to showcase our Island hospitality and culinary excellence when we don't have enough staff to properly run our businesses. Restaurant owners and their employees are feeling more and more pressure each day this moratorium continues."

Restaurants Canada has also launched a petition at www.protectingcanadianjobs.ca that has gathered 2,800 signatures so far from business owners and employees, including Canadians and foreign workers.

Restaurants Canada is a national association comprising 30,000 businesses in every segment of the foodservice industry, including restaurants, bars, caterers, institutions and their suppliers.  Through advocacy, research, and member programs and services, Restaurants Canada is dedicated to helping its members in every community grow and prosper. 

Canada's restaurant industry directly employs more than 1.1 million Canadians, contributes $68 billion a year to the Canadian economy, and serves more than 18 million customers every day.

SOURCE: Restaurants Canada

For further information: Media Contact: Prasanthi Vasanthakumar, 416-649-4254 or pvasanthakumar@restaurantscanada.org; Jill Holroyd, 416-738-7134 or jholroyd@restaurantscanada.org

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