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Businesses tell Labour Minister: “Solve staff shortages yesterday”

Six local business associations representing one fifth of the island’s workforce have urged Labour Minister Yiannis Panayiotou to solve the huge issues they are facing with staff shortages, expressing their grave concern and frustration.

The Cyprus Association of Retail Trade Enterprises, Cyprus Hotels Association, Association of Cyprus Travel Agents, Cyprus Nightlife Association, Cyprus Association of Food Chains and Cyprus Association of Fast Food Restaurants have joined forces to send a loud and clear message to the minister and government.

Despite Panayiotou recently calling on the businesses to show a little more patience, they are voicing their despair and dreading the new tourism season.

In a joint announcement, they said: “Give instructions, yesterday, to solve this huge problem so that businesses can survive these massive difficulties. You often refer to healthy workers for a healthy society and this is something that we totally agree with; however, Mr Minister, for there to be healthy citizens and society, first there need to be healthy businesses.”

They went on to urge the government to find immediate solutions before the new season begins.

Meanwhile, in statements to InBusinessNews, the general secretary of the Hotels Association, Marios Antoniou, said this serious shortage of human resources is threatening to derail economic growth, adding that the Labour Minister’s assurances and announcements can no longer suffice. “We are done with the assurances, announcements and proclamations and the minister himself needs to understand that we have run out of time. He must give instructions, yesterday, to simplify the recruitment procedures for third country nationals and stick to the deadline to respond within six weeks,” said Antoniou.

It is noted that some 75,000 people are currently employed in the retail and wholesale trade sector, while 43,000 work in hotels and catering. As such, the aforementioned associations represent one fifth of the country’s workforce, with a contribution to GDP in excess of 50%.

“Every day that goes by, the problems for our businesses due to the lack of staff grow. The reality is that there are not enough available unemployed people in Cyprus or from the EU and this is evident through the statistics. At the same time, the two sectors continue to grow year by year,” the associations said in their announcement.

They added that the recent decision to change the decree for employing asylum seekers has made the situation even worse. As they said, the decision was made in haste and without proper planning or a specific plan on how to replace the 15,000 asylum seekers who worked in various specialties and in all sectors of the economy in recent years. Though they don’t deny the decision was correct, the associations said, they still are concerned about the huge gap it has left.

All the above has led to a serious lack of staff for businesses, which are struggling to operate smoothly.

“And let us not forget that retail trade, catering and nightclubs are currently in their busiest month, while the tourism season is on the way,” the announcement said.

The business associations all agree that employing third country nationals is imperative, what with the lack of local human resources; though they stress that the work permit process is complicated, convoluted and time consuming.

“Despite the provisions for a response to applications for work permits for foreign staff within one month from when the application is submitted, this is not being implemented in practice,” the associations said. “To achieve this, the minister himself must give instructions, yesterday, to make the whole process simpler, more flexible and faster, so that the time-frames can be kept. Today, in the best conditions, it takes around five to six months to issue all the necessary permits for foreign staff, at a time when many hotels are closed,” they explained.

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