Hiring and retaining workers in the midst of a pandemic has been tough enough for employers in Guam’s food industry. Adding the COVID-19 vaccination mandate to the picture goes both ways.
Some companies have started to lose valuable employees to the tenure despite offering options to keep them, such as weekly testing for those who choose not to be vaccinated.
On the other hand, companies face hefty fines for violating the mandate, which the governor says is aimed at increasing the vaccination rate to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
“We are sad to lose three great cooks because of the vaccine mandate. We respect their decision and we don’t blame them. But there is also a mandate that we must respect,” said Yazmine Gresham, supervisor at Hambros, a restaurant in Tumon that offers burgers and fries.
Gresham said Hambros would have preferred to keep the three employees valuable and reliable, especially with the current shortage of catering workers.
“It’s hard enough to find workers during a pandemic and now the vaccination mandate makes it difficult to keep (the staff) that we already have. We have no choice but to look for three new employees. It’s been difficult to hire people, especially the right ones, these days. Most of all, we’re looking for reliable people, “Gresham said on Friday.
The shortage of catering staff is not unique to Guam. Business owners across the United States are grappling with the same reality as customers start to return.
With the end of the unemployment pandemic assistance coverage, which was a lifeline for tens of thousands of unemployed and underemployed Guam workers, some restaurant employers are hoping more people will return to the job market. labor market.
“We hire cooks, kitchen staff. You can come in with your resume or you can contact us through Facebook or call us to apply,” Gresham said.
For International Dining Concepts, which owns and operates multiple restaurants including Beachin ‘Shrimp, California Pizza Kitchen, and Ban Thai Restaurant & Lounge, vaccination is not required to apply for any of the available jobs.
“The question of vaccination only arises when the position is offered to the candidate, accompanied by a health certificate,” said Jude Diaz, head of human resources at IDC.
Diaz said IDC respects its employees’ stance on the vaccine mandate, while educating employees about the benefits of getting the vaccine as well as their options for keeping their jobs without immunizations, such as weekly testing.
“And so far, we haven’t lost any employees because of the tenure,” Diaz said.
Governor Lou Leon Guerrero has demanded that employees of restaurants, bars and other businesses be vaccinated by September 27, otherwise they will not be allowed into establishments.
If they don’t want to be vaccinated, they can take a weekly COVID-19 test. They can also request an exemption for medical or religious reasons, although the Department of Public Health and Human Services has not released information on how many workers have requested exemptions.
Diaz said IDC has maintained its employee benefits throughout the pandemic to remain competitive.
The Boka Box in Hagåtña, which prides itself on being Guam’s premier nutritionally healthy meal preparation service, has also been looking for kitchen assistants, but like many others it has faced challenges in hiring.
The company’s minimum requirement is that applicants apply in person.
“We had several applicants. But these are online applications. They only want to apply online and maybe it is because of the PUA job search. But when we ask them to visit us in person, they don’t show up. For us, showing up in person means you take your job seriously, “said Francis Valencia, Marketing Director of The Boka Box.” Some people want to work for us part-time, but the hours are up. conflict with their full-time jobs or, if they are students, the schedules conflict with their studies. We are understaffed, and I think a lot of us face the same problem. “
Some restaurants advertise jobs in newspapers and on social media, like Uptown Pub & Grill in Yigo, which is looking for bartenders.
Others are also holding career fairs, such as the one taking place Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at CPK Hagåtña across from Skinner Plaza. Ban Thai Restaurant & Lounge will also be on site in hopes of hiring workers.