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Businesses seek policy change on immigration

Margaret Chapman, of Narrative Research, left, Louise Twiss West, head of wholesale banking at HSBC, and Danielle Riviere, CEO of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, at the release of the latest Business Barometer Survey (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

The Chamber of Commerce has sought conversation with Government to further expand and open job categories available to foreign workers.

“With 2.5 per cent unemployment, there is a need to import workers at every level,” said chamber chief executive officer Danielle Riviere.

She was speaking after the release of the latest chamber Business Barometer Report revealing that 37 per cent of business owners see employee recruitment and retention as their biggest challenges.

That figure was down 6 cent compared to the previous year.

“These figures are no surprise,” Ms Riviere said. “We hear every day that there is a work shortage and an employee shortage.”

She said employers are particularly struggling to find skilled staff.

“Not every job out there is entry level,” she said.

Ms Riviere said recruitment has been challenging worldwide.

“There needs to be more conversations about Bermuda’s immigration policies,” she said.

However, she cautioned that there has to be a careful balance between bringing people in to work and ensuring the local population is employed.

Marico Thomas, chamber president and Food Hub founder, said it is an interesting and challenging time.

“When I came out of the pandemic, I had 175 jobs available,” he said. “Fast forward to now, and we still are about 30 people understaffed.”

He said it is a great time to be an employee.

“It is a labour market,” Mr Thomas said. “Employees can demand more.”

He is seeing many more employees leaving one job after a short time, to go from door-to-door, to find a better employment deal.

“That makes it quite difficult, sometimes for the employer to be consistent in what they do,” he said.

In the survey, the only bigger worry for employers was the cost of doing business, which grew as a concern, from 43 per cent the previous year, to 49 per cent today.

“We are doing our best to maintain financial stability, however many aspects that are out of our control, such as Belco, and general price increases,” an anonymous respondent told Narrative Research, the firm that conducted the survey.

Another person said the salary expectations of unqualified staff were an issue.

They said: “Unqualified staff are expecting the same salaries, in some cases higher salaries, than qualified staff with years of experience.”

Yet another person complained that there was no sign of help coming.

“Downsizing local staff to reduce overhead by converting many positions to part-time or seasonal, is a step to slow the bleeding, but still navigating the new business landscape,” they said.

Inflation caused a profit reduction for 66 per cent of businesses interviewed.

This had forced 19 per cent of them to reduce their staff’s salary, and 10 per cent to lay off people.

Mr Thomas, who runs 17 eateries, said the cost of doing business has changed.

“We have seen situations where our sales went up, but our profit went down,” he said. “This is due to the increased cost of labour, increased food and increased cost for things like labour and shipping.”

More than half of local business owners (51 per cent) thought inflation will continue to climb in Bermuda, compared to 70 per cent in the previous period. Only 11 per cent thought it would slow down, and 38 per cent thought it would maintain its current pace.

To read more of the latest Business Barometer Survey, see Related Media

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Published May 10, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated May 09, 2024 at 7:37 pm)

Businesses seek policy change on immigration

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