Labor shortage leads Musgrave Group to lobby government over visa rules

A labor shortage in the retail and hospitality sector has led SuperValu and Centra owner Musgrave to lobby the government to change foreign visa rules to attract more workers to the country.

The Musgrave Group is one of the country’s largest employers with over 35,000 people working in its stores in Ireland.

Lobbying Register records show the group recently met with Minister of State for the Department of Enterprise Damien English, Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney and MEP Mairead and other politicians to lobby for changes to visa requirements to facilitate recruitment from third countries. .

General Affairs Director Edel Clancy told The Irish Times that staff shortages were an ‘all-around’ problem for retail and therefore there was a need to recruit outside Ireland and the EU.

“Although Covid and Brexit have exacerbated the problem, they have not caused it. The skills we need are now in short supply across the country. We are honing and developing the careers of the people we have in store and we have very high retention, but we still have gaps,” she said.

The Musgrave Group is doing “all the usual things in terms of recruitment and are very supportive of the idea of ​​apprenticeships being added to OAC”, but the high cost of living in Ireland was still a deterrent to many workers, Ms said. Clancy. .

Ms Clancy said the government needed to ‘do more in terms of the cost of accommodation and public transport’.

“We are exhausting all possibilities to hire Irish workers and EU workers, but there is a shortage in all areas, so we have to recruit from outside the EEA,” she explained.

Last October, the Secretary of State for Business Damien English abolished the quota of 320 work permits granted to drivers of heavy goods vehicles outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

Some 187 such work permits have been issued, mainly to South Africa. The transport industry estimates that there is a shortage of between 3,000 and 4,000 drivers.

More builders, hotel managers, horticultural workers, dairy farm helpers and meat processors will also be allowed to obtain work permits, as will social workers and opticians.

In response to a question from The Irish Times about whether changes to work permits would be extended to retail and hospitality workers, a spokesperson said changes were being made to the lists of occupations work permits” where there are no Irish/EEA nationals available and the labor shortage is real and not due to working conditions or the salary offered.

The occupations lists are subject to bi-annual evidence-based review and take into account research carried out by the Skills and Labor Market Research Unit (SOLAS) and the Needs Expert Group Futures in Skills (EGFSN), a public consultation process, input from policy departments and the inter-ministerial group on economic migration, chaired by the department.

The next revision of the Lists of Professions will open in the coming weeks by Public Consultation.

“Sector organizations can then provide the data needed to back up their claims with a detailed evidence-based case showing structured engagement with the Department of Social Care and commitment to training initiatives,” the spokesperson said. .

Mr English was “committed to meeting the needs of the retail industry and continues to engage directly with operators”.

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