by Brandon Mayer
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A well-known cheese company is being forced to delay anticipated growth, and is instead reducing its production levels due to issues in finding workers. The St-Albert Cheese Co-op, which is located in the small village of St. Albert, approximately 45 minutes east of Kemptville, is one of the largest suppliers of cheese in the area, and is particularly famous for its cheddar cheese curds, which are used by many local businesses to make poutine.
The labour shortage has persisted, even after the company increased wages and offered benefits for prospective workers, with CTV News reporting that at least 25 people must be hired for the factory to keep up with its current production levels, let alone increase them.
The difficulty in recruiting labour is not something that is limited to the St-Albert Cheese Co-op. Many local businesses have been experiencing similar issues, and a national labour shortage has been making headlines across Canada.
It is difficult to pinpoint a single cause of the national labour crisis, but there has been much speculation about possible contributing factors. Perhaps the largest finger being pointed is one aimed at the federal government for introducing COVID-19 job loss benefits that were too generous and lasted too long. Benefits such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and its follow-up program, the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), paid as much as $500 weekly to people unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it appears that the labour shortage is persisting, even as these benefits come to an end.
Another potential source of the poor labour market is that many people may simply be refusing any work that is not in their preferred industry, or at the wage and benefit level they are used to. More jobs are available now than before the pandemic, but it is possible that the available jobs are, on average, lower paying, or involve different, or unsatisfying work.
Particular industries also face specific challenges. For example, in the food service industry, restaurants have been forced through numerous changes over the past 19 months, with changes being made to capacity limits, service being shifted from indoors to outdoors, and, at some points, service being eliminated altogether, with only take-out and delivery options available. As restaurants helped control their costs by laying off workers when these changes took effect, and re-hiring workers when restrictions were lifted, servers and other restaurant workers simply could not rely on the industry to provide a stable pay cheque any longer.
It is unclear whether the labour crisis will improve in the near future, although many experts are speculating that the problem will persist in the long term. In the meantime, those looking for work are at an advantage, and are encouraged to explore the employment opportunities in the area. Anyone interested in applying for a position at the St-Albert Cheese Co-op can visit their website at https://fromagestalbert.com/about/job-opportunities/?lang=en for a list of available jobs.