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2 August, 2022

Businesses struggle in staff crisis

WITH Australia recording its lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, the Tablelands has not been spared from the worker shortage, with businesses across a diverse range of industries unable to fill positions for months on end.

By Rhys Thomas

Allen’s 4x4, Tint and Signs owner Loren Allen is struggling to fill a 4x4 accessory fitter position.

Latest figures show the Tablelands local government area is at a low of 4.1 per cent, which is below the 4.6 per cent national figure, while the Mareeba Shire area has a six per cent unemployment rate due to various underlying factors. 

But the low unemployment rate has had a negative flow-on effect, with employers struggling to get any applications for jobs, let alone fill vacant positions. 

Prices Plus in Mareeba has been searching for people to fill three positions over the past eight months, and while they did manage to put on two new staff members, they both quit after three weeks, putting extra pressure on the existing staff who now work twice as hard. 

“The jobs are just for typical day-to-day duties of running the store, running the register, packing shelves, all in air con as well,” manager Dianne Amory said. 

Prices Plus Mareeba manager Dianne Amory has been searching for workers for eight months for general store duties.

Allen’s 4x4, Tint and Signs owner Loren Allen has been advertising for an accessories fitter for the past three weeks and says when the company advertised the same job 18 months ago, they had between 20 to 30 applications – this time, they have not had one application.

“Now, I have to fill another position in my front office,” Mrs Allen said. 

Pumping Irrigation and Machinery Services has been advertising for a salesperson for the past four weeks and while their Facebook ad for the position reached nearly 6000 people, had 504 engagements and 30 shares, only one resume was received. 

Some employers are even having to step into positions they cannot fill like Gallo Dairyland owner Ann Gallo who now has to take on the job of cooking at the popular tourist spot after her chef retired, all while still running the overall business. 

“Even though tourism is picking up again, we are unable to open for the same number of days we did pre-Covid because we have no staff,” she said. 

“We just don’t have the resources we used to – our chef has just retired and we have spent so much time and money trying to find someone to replace him. 

“We have not been able to replace him so now I am cooking and running my business at the same time, which is rough on me and my other staff members.” 

Small businesses are not the only ones being left high and dry, with Mareeba Leagues Club searching for nearly 10 new workers. 

The club has been trying to fill multiple positions including bar and gaming attendants, kitchen hands, front of house staff, a cook and a head chef – one of the hardest positions to fill. CEO Lucy Conner said the need for new staff was brought on by the club expanding as well as some existing staff choosing to commence travelling again after Covid. 

“We have been shorthanded since reopening from the Covid forced shutdown in 2020 – the unprecedented event prompted people employed in hospitality to consider other options,” she said.

“The need for new staff to join our existing teams is brought on by the successful hospitality operations of both the Mareeba Leagues Club and Heritage Coffee House at the Mareeba Heritage Centre and the continuing growth at both venues. 

“We greatly appreciate the support of our members, locals and visitors.”

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