SuperValu and Centra owner Musgrave, one of the country’s largest employers, met with the government to highlight concerns over labor shortages and its ability to recruit staff from outside the Economic Area European.
The lobbying record shows the food retail, wholesale and distribution giant, which has more than 35,000 people working in the business and its franchise stores in Ireland, met with various TDs, Ministers and Ministers of State, including Damien English from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. In November, Musgrave discussed work visa requirements to facilitate recruitment from countries outside the EEA.
Talk with the Sunday Independent, general business manager, Edel Clancy, said Musgrave and its network of independent retailers had encountered difficulties in recruiting “qualified staff”, in particular butchers, bakers, deli staff and truck drivers. Rretail vendors, butchers and bakers are on the list of occupations ineligible for work permits, although heavy truck drivers are eligible.
“Food retailing has grown, changed and evolved over time; it’s a very different proposition now with blurring the lines between food retail and foodservice,” she said. “You are now entering a SuperValu, and you are not just buying raw materials; you eat a meal. This meal was prepared by a butcher, carefully assembled by a deli assistant, and then potentially received by a baker.
“There are three qualified experts there that we like and are having a hard time recruiting. There is a shortage.
“The starting point for recruitment from third countries is that few are qualified and by exception only. The criteria are very strict. Our argument is that with the evolution of retail and foodservice, there are skills that we need, and we would love to bring people in and train them if we can find them.
Clancy said issues such as Brexit and Covid-19 had highlighted labor shortages. She said the cost of living and low availability of accommodation in Ireland was a problem in attracting workers here, leading some retailers to look for solutions.
“We would have retailers who would be very keen to provide accommodation as well if they can,” she said. “But then you have problems around BIK [benefit-in-kind]. It’s not simple.
Clancy said other pandemic trends have compounded the problem. These included workers from EEA countries returning home and some potential employees pursuing a new career. Pandemic Unemployment Pay (PUP), although the right thing to do, she said, had also helped. However, this was not the “major factor”. Clancy said she believes shortages may continue, despite her staff retention rates. She said that increased efforts had been made, both at national and EU level, in the areas of recruitment and upskilling, and she welcomed the recent improvements in the recruitment regime. ‘learning.
“They [the Government] listened, but they reiterated the criteria to me,” she said. “We will continue to make this point because we believe that the fundamental problem of labor shortages will not be solved by improvements in terms of Covid etc.”
To work in Ireland, a non-EEA national, unless exempted, must hold a work permit.
The Department for Business, Trade and Employment, which administers the work permit system, said changes have been made to permit lists where no suitable Irish or EEA national is available. available and when the “labour shortage is real and not due to working conditions or wages”. offered.” He said the next review of the lists would open in the coming weeks.
He added that Minister English would continue to engage with operators through the Retail Forum, which he chairs.
Regarding terms and wages, Clancy said the company has very good employee retention rates and provides employees with development opportunities and a long-term career.
Musgrave is one of Ireland’s largest family businesses. In 2020, its pre-tax profit reached 98 million euros, while group sales reached nearly 4.5 billion euros.