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EDITORIAL: Appreciation of workforce as important as providing living wage

If you invested in 'help wanted' signs before the pandemic, you are likely too busy counting your money to read this. Across the country – including the Bow Valley – employers are desperately trying to fill vacant jobs as the demand continues to outweigh
December 2, 2021
Cartoon by Patrick LaMontagne/www.lamontagneart.com

If you invested in 'help wanted' signs before the COVID-19 pandemic, you are likely too busy counting your money to read this.

Across the country – including the Bow Valley – employers are desperately trying to fill vacant jobs as demand continues to outweigh supply when it comes to the workforce.

While some may think people are delaying employment to collect government financial supports, it’s more likely the vast majority would choose full-time work with a good paycheque and a positive work-life balance.

However, the pandemic has led many people to rethink their careers.

In the United States, it led to the ‘summer of quitting’ that turned into the Great Resignation as more than 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September. Though Canada hasn’t seen quite the significant movement the U.S. has, the country hasn’t gone untouched.

One look at storefronts in the Bow Valley shows the many signs searching for workers or asking customers to act respectfully toward their employees because staff shortages may cause delays and frustrations.

Anyone who believes things will soon change should be applauded for being a glass-half-full type of person.

The Job Resource Centre’s latest labour market review shows a less than rosy picture for employers.

The bi-annual review had staff shortages across the Bow Valley heavily impacting employers between February and July and that will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

The region has long relied on both transient and international workers who come to areas such as Banff and Canmore to experience the mountain environment as much as to make money. However, COVID-19 has all but ceased international workers as well as many from other provinces arriving to fill jobs.

The job centre also saw 80 per cent of its clients seeking help to find new careers, while the remaining 20 per cent were looking for work.

The issue in the valley is many jobs are service and tourism-related, which fall well short of full-time. When the cost to live in the valley is added in, the mountains become less appealing when a person is surviving paycheque to paycheque.

In the accommodation and food services industry, Statistics Canada reported 157,000 job vacancies in August compared to an average of 76,600 between July and September 2019.

While the larger hotels and chains could provide increases in salaries for workers to improve their lives, many smaller businesses are simply unable to as they themselves have struggled to endure long enough to get past the COVID-19 finish line.

At this point, nearly every valley resident has seen the Alberta Living Wage Network report from October that stated a living wage in Canmore is $37.40 an hour for each parent in a two-parent, two-child household.

But while cost-of-living is one factor, feeling appreciated is another.

The prevailing thought over the years has been to tell people they’re lucky to have a job. It ultimately fails to get to the root causes of why people choose to leave a job or pass over an opportunity.

A July RBC Economics report had people more inclined to stay in jobs during the initial months of the pandemic due to uncertainty, but as people began getting vaccinated, many began looking for greener pastures. As the accumulation of burnout, under-appreciation, struggling to get by financially increased, many people took a leap for new work or understood they didn’t have to settle.

The report noted ways to stem the flood of workers fleeing is higher wages and more flexible working conditions. If they seem ideal, it’s because they are.

When it comes to employment, one thing has remained true over the years.

If you pay employees an adequate wage, treat with them respect and provide a good work-life balance, they’ll reward you in kind.