Firms working long hours, shifting schedules | Coronavirus


Bob Garrett shuddered when he learned at the end of August that Country Cupboard in Lewisburg would close on Sunday.

“There are families who have a 50-year tradition of having Sunday Brunch at Country Cupboard,” said Garrett, president and CEO of the Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce.

They had no choice but to temporarily close on Sundays, in addition to Mondays, due to understaffing, said Chris Baylor, CEO of Baylor-Hamm Companies & The Prescott Real Estate Group, owner of the Country Cupboard and the Best Western Hotel. Baylor said the move was not permanent, but the shortage has not changed since the announcement last month. He said they plan to return in October, the start of their busiest holiday season.






Robert Inglis / The Daily

A sign at one of the entrances to the Country Cupboard aisle in Lewisburg announcing their reduced hours due to a staff shortage.


“We are so understaffed that our current staff are under stress” having to work longer hours and different shifts, he said. “We could probably hire over 100 people. We are short in all departments and it is not just the hospitality industry that is affected. It is manufacturing, medicine and universities. We’re just puzzled by it. Where have all these people gone?

Garrett said the nationwide labor shortage – 8.4 million people were unemployed in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – is “extremely complex” and is not caused by a only problem.

Experts cited several factors leading people to withdraw from the labor market, including the additional unemployment benefits established in the CARES law of March 2020 which expires on Monday; concerns about COVID-19, lack of transportation and childcare, and the ability to work from home.

Garrett expects the labor shortage crisis to ease a bit when about 7.5 million Americans lose improved unemployment benefits, including the weekly supplement of $ 300, on Monday. which will bring a lot back to work.

“I think it will help,” he said. “The (unemployment benefit program) has survived on its own. It was a great idea at the start of the pandemic, but what we would like the government to do now is help people get back into the workforce. We don’t have enough people for the economy at this point.

Stressful situations

Apex Homes of PA President Lynn Kuhns looks tired and admits he is because he and his 120 employees have been working for months 50 hours a week at the Middleburg plant.

Instead of the usual four-day, 10-hour workweek, employees work five 10-hour days because he cannot fill fifteen positions. He said he would be able to fill up to 50 more if the material was available.






Workers

Franky Canepa is installing a shower in a house at Apex Homes in Middleburg on Thursday.




“We had a 20 percent reduction in production due to a shortage of raw materials and a lack of manpower,” he said. “It’s very stressful. We are lucky to have business, but we cannot grow because we cannot find truck drivers, plumbers, electricians. All departments of the company are concerned.

To give workers a break, it is shutting down production one Friday a month and has increased wages three times in the past nine months.

Kyle Ard had to close the dining hall at the Ard Farmer’s Market in Lewisburg on Mondays and Tuesdays and cut down on catering hours so overworked employees could rest.






Workers

Alan Ard from Ard’s Farm Market serves lunch at a catering event.




“We were working 50 to 60 hours a week with our full-time staff,” she said. “To maintain the quality of life, we had to close. We couldn’t continue to mistreat the people who stayed with us.

It’s a similar scenario at Furmano Foods in Northumberland, where company president Chad Geise has been unable to fill around 30 full-time, well-paying positions, which has “put a strain on our existing team ”.

To alleviate the emotional burden and burnout of the 350 full-time employees, he granted salary increases and hosted special monthly events, including a barbecue and games like the one that had him sit in a tank of water. ‘water.

The long-term implications of the labor shortage worry Geise, who, like other business owners, is considering investing in automation, which could eventually lead to fewer available jobs.

In the short term, he expects prices to rise as the supply chain slows even more.

“We are at the start of a period of inflation,” he said. “What will happen to the person who struggled before when the prices continue to rise?” “

To show creativity

The medical profession has long faced challenges in hiring in clinical fields such as nursing, paramedics, paramedics, and medical laboratory specialists due to national demand that outstripped the supply of workers. said Rachel Smith, vice president of people and culture at Evangelical Community. Lewisburg Hospital, but the shortage worsened during the pandemic.

Added to that challenge is the “physical, emotional and mental toll” the pandemic has taken on longtime healthcare workers who are now choosing to leave direct patient care positions, she said.

“The pandemic has challenged our recruiting teams to think outside the box not only with where we are recruiting, but also in what we propose to show Evangelical as a desirable place of employment for job seekers. “said Smith.

Geisinger is also getting “creative” with login bonus programs aimed at attracting candidates for difficult or high priority positions in addition to its health care and other benefits, said Jeff Lowry, director of recruiting at Geisinger.






Workers

Electrician Brad Dreese is working on a light switch inside an Apex Homes house in Middleburg on Thursday.




He said the Danville-based healthcare system is struggling to find people to work in direct patient and non-clinical care positions, ranging from nursing to bloodletting, environmental services and food services.

“Each of our employees plays an important role in the care of our patients and contributes to the health and general well-being of the community,” he said.

Susquehanna University is also processing a higher than usual number of open positions due to what Vice President of Human Resources Jennifer Bucher attributes to people changing their lives during the pandemic.

“Our experience is that (…) some have decided to be closer to their families, others have chosen to change industry to pursue passions and others have chosen to reduce their working time by switching to work part-time, ”she said. “Despite these challenges, we believe we will be able to fill our vacancies by creating and retaining strong candidate pools, offering competitive compensation and creative benefits that support a multigenerational workforce, and providing a temporary accommodation on campus if necessary. ”

The University of Susquehanna board on Friday took action to recognize employees who continued to work during the health crisis and approved both a base salary increase and a one-time bonus that will go into effect. on September 20, said Bucher.

Win a vehicle

One chance to win a new vehicle is how the Knoebels amusement park in Elysburg tried to attract workers this summer. The raffle for the 2021 Chevy Trailblazer, which was open to any employee 16 or older who has worked at least 250 hours, will take place on Monday, spokeswoman Stacy Yutko said.

Despite the possibility of winning a new car, plus a $ 1 an hour mid-season hike, scholarships and other perks, Yutko said, employment at the park peaked this summer at around 78%. of its workforce before the pandemic.

Geise hopes disengaged workers will return to the workforce soon and consider working at Furmano.

“We are celebrating our 100th anniversary this year and we want to make sure that we will be here another 100 years,” he said.






Workers

There is a hiring sign outside Apex Homes in Middleburg.




At Country Cupboard, which is approaching its 50th year in business, Baylor said it plans to resume Sunday catering services in October.

After shutting down the restaurant completely for 102 days at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Baylor said, the dining room hasn’t reopened to 100% capacity and he doesn’t know when it will.

“It has been a burden on our industry, but all companies have the same struggle,” he said.


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