By PETER JOHNSON
THE CLICKIMIN Centre canteen is cutting back its opening hours as of Monday as a result of a shortage of catering staff.
The move – in response to staff shortages affecting businesses throughout Shetland and Scotland in general – is a short term solution to a longer term problem, claimed manager James Johnston.
According to Mr Johnston the reduction of the award-winning sports centre’s catering hours to 7pm weekdays and 6pm on Saturday and Sunday will buy time to come up with a solution while rationalising the opening hours of the poolside restaurant.
Mr Johnston said: “For about a year now we’ve had difficulties trying to recruit catering staff and that seems to be a problem all over Shetland.”
The centre has been trying to juggle its five full-time caterers and seven or so part-time staff but with four staff required per shift that had been all but impossible.
“We have not been able to have a consistent service and that was going to have an impact on the public,” said Mr Johnston, who added that providing food whenever the centre is open was of paramount importance. “We had to do something from the public’s perspective. There’s nothing worse than not knowing when there’s going to be hot food available.”
He added that the necessity to put applicants through official checks on their suitability to work alongside children was slowing recruitment and potential workers were often finding other jobs while they waited for clearance.
“We have had a number of workers in interested but by the time they get interviewed and get clearance from Disclosure Scotland, they have moved on to another job,” he added. “It does slow the process down and some people are wanting a job now.”
The fact that migrant workers were increasingly filling the labour pool meant that many were seeking jobs with beds – favouring the hotel trade – which put the sports centre at a disadvantage.
Mr Johnston said: “One of the reasons we were wanting to move quickly on this is we do not want to lose more staff to the competition. This gives us the chance to look at other potential solutions for opening hours instead of crisis management on a day to day basis.”
Islesburgh complex facilities manager Dale Smith cited labour shortage as a contributory factor in the closure of Islesburgh House’s cafe, which had also failed to pay for itself.
Although the part-time staff have been re-employed at the Central Cafe in the Islesburgh Centre, management are struggling to fill four recently advertised posts – one of which has had no applicants.
“We were not exactly snowed under with applications, but this seems to be a problem for people all over,” Mr Smith said.
Staffing difficulties have led to opening the Central Cafe earlier with opening hours cut back slightly to 9am to 9pm through the week with 6pm closure on Saturday and Sunday. Evenings and weekends are proving especially difficult to staff, according to the managers.
Marjory Barrie, the regional supervisor of Brudolf Hotels which owns the Shetland Hotel, Lerwick Hotel and Kveldsro House, said that ongoing catering staff shortages were widespread in Shetland and elsewhere. “We have to recruit out with the island just now as the local work force is insufficient,” she said.
According to the bosses, rates are “relatively competitive” in the sector but the workforce is just not available.