“I can pay $ 40 or $ 45 an hour and I still can’t find someone!” But pay is not just a thing in the minds of workers
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series on the challenges employers now face in finding workers. Next week: The challenge of hiring seasonal and temporary workers for vacations.
After four decades in the restaurant business, Ralph Magliocchetti says he’s never seen anything like it.
The owner of the elegant II Villaggio in Carlstadt cannot find waiters or kitchen helpers. Salary is not an issue, he said, pointing out that an experienced candidate can practically name their award.
There are simply no candidates.
“I commit suicide. I work 90 hours a week in the kitchen, doing the work of three people, ”said Magliocchetti, 72. “I can’t have a cook at any cost. It is not the salary. I can pay $ 40 or $ 45 an hour and still can’t find someone!
“I don’t know where we are going,” he said. “I don’t see it getting any better.”
Magliocchetti, who estimates he spent $ 20,000 on online search ads in the past 6 months, is not alone.
The nation is going through a great awakening and what many believe will be a one-time change in the way we work – and the way we view work. This work death as we know it is unfolding across the country and in virtually every industry as the Covid recovery, start over and stop, stumbles, presenting complex questions about life choices, core values and how we can be happier at work.
But it already seems clear: workers demand and get more, and it’s not just about wages. Flexible hours, work-from-home options, better benefits, a better work-life balance, and the development of greater diversity in the workplace are just a few of the things workers want. ‘wait now.
And so today, it’s impossible to pick up an order for dinner downtown or log into Facebook without seeing calls for help. Restaurants. Landscapers. Warehouses. Factories. Supermarkets. Hospitals. You name it, they’re looking for workers.
Figures from the Department of Labor nationwide show 10.9 million open jobs. Incredibly, that’s more positions than the estimated 8.7 million unemployed people who are actively looking for a job. Workers in some industries seem to have literally disappeared, especially the low paid who earn their living in public roles in hotels, restaurants, tourism and retail. These industries have been particularly hard hit here in New Jersey.
As a result, restaurants have cut hours, hotels and entertainment venues are running at reduced capacity, and retailers are struggling to hire workers for the holidays.
Employment experts said the desire for a clearly defined career path and high-quality work experience has supplanted paychecks as a priority for hourly service and essential workers, as well as many professionals on the job. white lucky enough to work remotely from home.
As a result, hourly workers and well-to-do professionals are on the move, ready to change companies, change jobs, join the odd-job economy or start their own business.
“We will be studying the Covid recession for generations to come because never before have we been hit like this,” said Jane Oates, president of the nonprofit WorkingNation and former senior advisor to the former. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine. .
“Part of that is the wage or the hourly wage, but they also look at flexibility,” she said. “People want to see that there is a way for them to get a better job title and get away from the job they are in. now.”
Our new attitudes towards work were illustrated in a recent survey which found that 6 in 10 job seekers – both employees looking for new jobs and unemployed people looking to re-enter the labor market. work – were open to a career change due to the pandemic, according to the Morning Consult survey.
“The pandemic has had an emotional impact,” said Greg Dell’Aquila, commercial real estate developer and chairman of the Hoboken Business Alliance. “What the employees say is, ‘I want you to be nice to me and not treat me like a cog in this machine.'”
“It has been such anxiety that people are suffering from Covid-linked PTSD and what it has done with the United States shutting down for fear of the unknown of catching this virus,” he said. -he declares. “Can I come back to work?” Can I pay my bills? How long will this last? It was all anxiety.
Perhaps the most dramatic change is underway among entry-level hourly workers.
There is an abundance of job vacancies that pay at least $ 15 an hour, an amount adopted in recent years as a minimum wage model and adopted by several states. In New Jersey, there are areas where the state’s $ 12 minimum wage has become virtually obsolete after Covid.
Yet even higher wage offers have gone unanswered, and the end of generous federal unemployment benefits earlier this month hasn’t sparked a widely expected rush of workers into the job market – not yet, at least.
“Our recruiting efforts are catastrophic,” said Kris Ohleth, owner of Garden State Kitchen in Orange, which rents commercial kitchen space to caterers and restaurants. “We hire cleaners and dishwashers to keep the kitchen ready. We’re now offering $ 20 an hour to start, and we’re still not getting a lot of responses. It’s crazy!”
Almost every month, big box retailers – Target, Walmart, Amazon, Staples, and others – have tried to lure employees in with booming announcements of starting salary increases, perks, and perks like bonuses. retention and refunds of tuition fees.
Even so, some of the more lucrative deals still have few takers, forcing companies to raise the stakes to find needed workers. For example, Coach USA offers bus drivers a signing bonus of $ 5,000 and other incentives for cleaners and bus mechanics.
“Gone are the days when companies made people work long hours for low pay,” said Jim Kirkos, CEO and Chairman of the Meadowlands Chamber. “Companies are going to have to get creative to give employees more meat on the bone, a raise in wages, and more career opportunities and benefits.”
Kirkos, whose group sponsored a job fair for 15 companies last Friday, said the hospitality industry had been devastated by fewer black-and-white artists since Broadway went dark and a dramatic drop in the number of new immigrants, a traditional source of hospitality workers. They have been barred from entering the United States by Covid visa restrictions or have fled the Trump administration’s strict immigration policies, he said.
“I don’t want to water it down. I think a lot of people are going to lose their life’s work, ”said Oates, also a former Obama administrator’s job official. “It’s going to become increasingly difficult for small businesses to find the talent they need.
The turn of events put tremendous pressure on small businesses like Magliocchetti’s Italian restaurant, where he said the full range of Covid-era employee challenges unfolded in his kitchen and elegant banquet rooms.
Magliocchetti, who built the White Gant restaurant 43 years ago, said some of his employees had worked in the restaurant for decades. He said many did not return after the Covid lockdown last year. Their reasons varied.
Some feared contracting the coronavirus and made more by collecting $ 600 in weekly unemployment benefits. Others did not have daycare and therefore chose to work a few hours a week for ridesharing services carrying people and delivering food or goods for large retailers. Still others have left the restaurant industry altogether for jobs in warehouse or big box retailers that pay less than II Villaggio, but offer benefits and stable daytime hours.
Magliocchetti said he was near his breaking point.
“Maybe it’s time to stop it and stop it. It crossed my mind, “he said.” If I lose a few more people, I’m done. “
George E. Jordan writes a weekly column on business and development in New Jersey. He can be contacted at [email protected].