How to attract and retain employees in cafes, hotels, restaurants at a time when labor is sorely lacking? Thierry Deniau, president of the Union of trades in the hotel industry and Valérie Issert, territorial director of Pôle emploi Aude-Ariège provide some answers. In the meantime, more and more establishments are imposing closing days as the holidays approach.
It’s a fact: since the health crisis, which led 30% of its employees to change paths, the hotel and catering industry has suffered from a lack of staff. So much so that some establishments (Franck Putelat’s brasserie, in Carcassonne, but also restaurants on the coast), impose closing days in order to be able to organize shifts and adapted working times. Monday morning, on the sidelines of the general assembly (read below) of the Union of trades in the hotel industry of Aude (UMIH 11), Thierry Deniau, its president, and Valérie Issert, territorial director of Pôle employment Aude-Ariège, took stock of the situation. “For three years, we have been working in close collaboration with Pôle Emploi”emphasizes in the preamble Thierry Denieau, aware of the image that his sector conveys: “When we talk about hotels and restaurants, we think of the high volume of working hours, poorly paid, weekends… We have a sign behind our backs, but we can’t settle everything with the snap of our fingers. We started by raising wages (the hourly rate is now €11.02, the highest minimum wage) and we are working on other avenues.”
We must be attractive in our professions
Although the sector currently employs some 8,000 people (in approximately 171 hotels and 2,000 restaurants), 3,556 vacancies were recorded between April 2021 and March 2022 (i.e. 17.2% of the territory’s vacancies), which represents an increase over 12 months of 47.4%. During this time, the demand for employment fell by 18% with 2,670 people registered with Pôle Emploi. “We must be attractive in our professions”insists Thierry Deniau, aware of the lack of anticipation for the tourist season on the part of professionals. “There is first of all the question of housing: a seasonal worker is not going to put his pay in rent. We have to find solutions”, insists the president of the UMIH 11 who evokes a rapprochement with Action Logement to unlock aid, or even the idea of opening the boarding schools of free high schools in the summer… But, more broadly, it is necessary to make love the trades cook, waiter, maid, receptionist… To make people love and build loyalty. “We work with people who have been away from employment for a long time, or the beneficiaries of social minima: there is a lot of communication work to be done”acknowledges for her part Valérie Issert.
Accompany, train, encourage
And behind, a necessary training. This is confirmed by Michel Cartier, from the eponymous hotel in Quillan: “Each year, for the season, we are on the razor’s edge to complete our teams. As soon as we detect a person who has the required skills, we have to accompany him, train him, encourage him, take care of Personally, I complete the activity of the hotel with a cannery out of season: it allows me to make people work all year round to have it available when the establishment reopens its doors to the public.”
Objective “Pole leader”!
To introduce the trades in colleges, high schools, encourage the signing of apprenticeship contracts, but also the introduction of foreign labor (“which is very framed”notes Valérie Issert) or disabled workers are part of the toolbox. “Pôle emploi reinvents itself every year to find employees for companies”, notes Thierry Deniau again. Among the original initiatives, the “Pole chef” operation which, on the model of the program “Top chef”, offers enlightened cooking enthusiasts looking for a job to prepare, with a determined basket, dishes for a jury . At stake, not a financial or media reward, but perhaps the trigger to take the plunge and move towards a new professional path. The concept took place in Castelnaudary and Narbonne, it will be renewed in Carcassonne soon.
“We have the means to have a hellish season… but”
During the general assembly of UMIH 11, Thierry Deniau made a revelation: “This year, all the lights are green. French tourists are there but foreigners are also coming back (Germans, Italians, Spaniards, Belgians and even Americans). We have the possibility of having a hellish season”. Only, there is one bone: “Again and always the lack of staff. For lack of arms, we will be forced to close one or two days a week to allow the teams to run well. A hotel that lacks maids will have to close rooms so that it could have been full throughout the season. Clearly, following the Covid, we did not see this situation coming, we did not anticipate “. The UMIH 11 now has 202 members against 144 last year.