Staff shortages lead to more cuts and closures

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STAFF shortages driven by recruitment issues and Covid are continuing to wreak havoc in both the public and private sector – with bins and bus routes among the latest casualties.

LibertyBus has been forced to reduce services on some of its routes after struggling to recruit drivers over the past few months, while absences within the government’s roads and beach-cleaning crews mean public bins ‘may not be emptied as often’.

The news comes at a time when many cafés and hospitality businesses are having to scale back operations as a result of the escalating recruitment crisis.

JPRestaurants’ director Dominic Jones said that, although the company had planned ‘well in advance’ – and was not suffering from staffing issues at present – a lack of accommodation in Jersey was ‘one of the biggest issues’ facing the industry.

‘We offer good salaries for people to come and work in the Island but they struggle to find somewhere to live,’ he said.

Commenting on the recent closures in the sector, he said: ‘The Island is tight-staffed at the moment and Covid is causing issues.’

Last month, Margaret Russell, who runs the Driftwood Café at Archirondel, said the Island had lost a lot of good staff over the past two years, while Mike Hunwin, of the Breakwater Café at St Catherine, said he would like to trade every day but that this was not realistic with reduced staff numbers.

Similar issues forced Locke’s coffee shop in town to close temporarily, while The Alliance supermarket in St Ouen is currently closed because of staff shortages.

The health and education sectors have also been affected, with care providers struggling to bring trained staff to Jersey, which has in turn exacerbated problems at the Hospital, as patients who are fit for discharge are unable to return home.

Senior trade union officials have warned that Island schools have faced difficulties recruiting teachers, and that some could head into the new academic year with posts still vacant or covered by under-qualified staff.

LibertyBus yesterday said it was short of eight drivers on its fulltime roster owing to a combination of retirement, sickness and people moving to other industries.

The company has so far managed to avoid any impact on the timetable, with many staff working overtime to maintain the service.

However, the combination of higher route frequencies in the summer and scheduled staff holidays has forced the operator to make some temporary changes.

Next week, the frequency of services on routes 1 and 15 (to Gorey and the Airport respectively) will drop from every 15 minutes to every 20 minutes between 9am and 4.30pm, while services on route 20 (the town circular service) will move from every 20 minutes to every half an hour.

The company said it hoped to resume full services the following week.

LibertyBus director Kevin Hart said: ‘We apologise to customers for the disruption and have tried to keep the reductions in frequency to a minimum. If we have any other issues that occur each day then we will of course post them on our social-media channels and ask our customers to keep track via Facebook and Twitter for updates.’

He added: ‘We are doing everything in our power to recruit staff, including offering free training for people to obtain their PSV driver’s licence.’

Meanwhile, a government spokesperson said that a rise in the number of Covid-related absences among its roads and beach-cleaning crews meant that public bins ‘may not be emptied as often as we would like at the moment’.

‘With the warm weather forecast for this weekend, we are advising the public to please take their rubbish home with them in the event that a bin may be full,’ they said.

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