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EDITORIAL: A salute to Bow Valley's understaffed workers

Predicting when Bow Valley businesses will be fully staffed again isn't as simple as stretching fingers over a mystical crystal ball and demanding answers.

Nobody knows what the future holds, but we do know the present, and that is that many workers are overworked, tired and praying for relief – and soon.

Businesses being understaffed in the transient/expensive/industry-specific Bow Valley is nothing new. We know this.

But after two months of COVID-19 restrictions being lifted in Alberta, it's time to salute, hat tip, or give a big wet hand-sanitized high-five to all the workers putting in extra shifts, using their vacation time later, and welcoming unmasked visitors back in order to turn the wheel of the tourism-driven machine.

This acknowledgement, of course, doesn't make up for the extended back-breaking and exhausting hours many employees are putting in, or complaints coming from some daft, entitled patrons. However, if any of these employees have felt overlooked or aren't hearing it from visitors, employers, peers, or whomever, then thank you. What you are doing is appreciated.

In this week's Outlook, an article on page 21 explains how hard the local hospitality sector is being hit right now. The sombre realization is there aren't people applying for jobs that make these towns run, and an expert of this area's yearly employment trends has absolutely no idea how the next few months will unfold.

The common consensus is there isn't one answer to point fingers as to why jobs aren't being taken, rather there are multiple layers to the issue.

A top-of-the-list factor that business owners and managers bring up is Canadians are riding out the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which provided millions of people with financial relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program ends September 25.

Another factor is the lingering effects of a virus. It's hard to blame anyone who feels unsafe about working in the tourism hotspot of Alberta where many jobs require interactions with visitors. And if there's a COVID-19 outbreak among staff, it's a whole other level of the snarling understaffed beast businesses are dealing with.

One other blow the Bow Valley has to absorb right now is what the Outlook article's headline eludes to, which is the Bow Valley is really yearning for its beloved international workers.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, many international workers essentially said "peace" and left to their home countries. This was at absolutely no fault to them as businesses were laying off employees, international borders were closing, and the world was facing a crisis so unknown and daunting it was straight out of a doomsday science fiction movie. 

Through working visas or the International Experience Canada, a chunk – between 20 and 30 per cent five years ago – are these workers in the hospitality sector.

During these times, service will be slower and waits for seating and food will be longer while the workers providing these services bust their butts day in and day out. Patience will be key.