There’s no magic migrant tree – time for flexibility 

The UK government was celebrating this week, as it has been three glorious years since it Got Brexit Done and it’s now free ports all the way, hurrah! If anyone is unsure what a free port is, maybe ask around in the EU, where they have 80. But never mind.

The celebrating continued with the IMF’s forecast that the UK’s economy would shrink by 0.6% this year, performing worse than other advanced economies, including Russia. But the free ports! 

But harping on all this Brexit (shh) naysaying is churlishness in the extreme. It’s time for us to look at what brings us closer to our neighbours, not what sets us apart and ALIS gave everyone a good chance to pick out the similarities.

The US has, of course, already had its Quarter of Reckoning. It has a Quarter of Reckoning at the first sign of someone, even in a remote state, thinking of downgrading to a cheaper segment, because it’s not hidebound by these awful rules and regulations such as might be imposed by the EU. Once the UK has left, we can have a Quarter of Reckoning every 15 minutes. Hurrah! 

So the US dealt with everyone rumoured to be considering a default, but where it shares a common woe is, of course, staffing. Hotels were happy to have cut loose all of what one hotelier charmingly called ‘dead wood’ during the pandemic, but has found that, astoundingly, not everyone wanted to come rushing back to the sector which has treated them so well.

This has led to the AHLA launching the Workforce & Immigration Initiative to “emphasise the need for Congress to support the U.S. workforce and economy through bipartisan solutions to fix our nation’s broken immigration system”. Stop me if anything sounds familiar. Or don’t, because you’ll miss the ending.

“Workforce shortages are severely impacting America’s economy, notably the leisure and hospitality sector, which is facing historic worker shortfalls. This crisis has contributed to high levels of inflation and restricted economic growth. Americans everywhere are feeling the impacts of these difficulties. To address the extraordinary workforce shortages, Congress and the administration must come together and find bipartisan solutions that include incorporating more immigrants into the American economy,” said Chip Rogers, president & CEO of AHLA.

The Workforce & Immigration Initiative also launched a new, six-figure digital advertising campaign in D.C. and key states featuring an ad that notes contributions by immigrants “make our country and economy stronger”. The ad highlights the workforce shortage and calls on Congress and the administration to “secure our border, grow our economy and create opportunities for people to work legally in the United States” and “rebuild the American Dream”.

In the UK, the sector has also been campaigning for a more flexible visa system which would allow migrants to fill some of the hospitality vacancies which are stymying growth. It almost happened under Liz Truss, but then other events got in the way. Record immigration numbers means that the subsequent government is unlikely to do anything which could be viewed as encouraging more of them Foreigns in, even if it means we get our dinner before it goes cold.

But all these campaigns miss the point. We have to make the sector attractive to everyone, not just those we think we can get away with paying less. Those days are over. There is no magic migrant tree full of people itching to be paid less than minimum wage for the joy of meeting our 3am demands.

The smarter operations have worked this out and are paying accordingly. Next up needs to be flexibility. Most of the people reading this have been enjoying flexible working, now is the time to start offering it to your team. The technology is in place and operations is catching up. Whoever is first to work it out can save precious time lobbying their governments – who aren’t listening anyway. 

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