by Colin Campbell
INVERNESS MP Drew Hendry has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel asking her to come to the Highlands to see for herself the “extreme staffing crisis” facing the Highland hospitality industry because of “the Tories hostile approach to Brexit and immigration”.
“We warned this would happen,” he says.
Patel is unlikely to accept Hendry’s invitation. But if she did, maybe their first stopover should be at the Coylumbridge Hotel, which in March last year ordered workers living there to leave their accommodation immediately after the hotel closed at the start of the coronavirus epidemic. One former employee was reduced to living in a tent.
The hotel chain which owns the Coylumbridge later claimed, after an outcry of protest, that this extremely harsh move happened because of a misunderstanding.
But this is worth recalling because, whether deliberate or otherwise, it showed the hospitality industry, in the eyes of many people, at its very worst.
And it signalled a careless indifference to employees from just one hotel which had maybe got too used to having an endless supply of foreign labour to call on.
“Workers rights? What workers rights? If you don’t like it here, b****r off. We’ll easily find someone to replace you.”
Well because of Brexit, that endless labour supply is now drying up, and some hotels are having difficulty recruiting workers.
The industry has had a terrible year of closures and this is the very last thing employers need.
It should also be emphasised that some, perhaps many, hotels treat staff as well as they possibly can. I know one young man who has risen through the ranks in an Inverness hotel, has been there 10 years, and is fully content with the career he is carving out for himself. I know others who have been in the industry for years and thrive on the pressures they’re under and the constant hustle and bustle they face. But there are others who have worked in hospitality and haven’t a good word to say about it.
The unsocial hours and hectic, challenging workload put many people off signing up for hospitality work. And the pay levels are fairly low.
It’s a very mixed bag. But while Drew Hendry bemoans the evils of Brexit, one thing is crystal clear. In recent years having a vast number of EU foreign workers to call on and earn much more than they would at home has meant there has been little or no pressure on establishments to improve pay and conditions for everyone, or incentive for them to do so.
Drew Hendry’s simple, mindless solution to the staffing crisis in hospitality is to open the floodgates to a mass influx of foreign labour again.
Shouldn’t he also have some concerns about pay and conditions and be asking why the hospitality industry is a work choice avoided by many Scots?
Might he even dare suggest that there should be a serious industry wide effort to improve pay, conditions and the image of the industry to make it more appealing to Scots workers?
His attitude is all too typical of the SNP. No solutions, no effort to think things through and try and give a balanced perspective. Just grab the nearest frying pan and lash out at “the callous Tories” and Brexit.
Hendry is an SNP freeloader rolling in cash from Westminster. I suspect the only thing he really knows about hotels is how to sleep in them, posh ones no doubt, and the only thing he really knows about restaurants is how to order five-star meals in them, probably on lavish Westminster expenses.
But for the moment the staffing crisis is a good weapon to bash the Tories and Brexit with. The staffing problems are real. But Hendry and his SNP cohorts are most seriously interested in spreading their political propaganda.
This is the bunch who want the furlough scheme extended indefinitely, just as long as Westminster keeps paying for it.
Who knows, when the free money holiday finally comes to an end later this year, many people may have got so used to it that they will shun a return to work, in hotels, restaurants or anywhere else.
That won’t matter to the SNP. While hotels are unable to find workers and jobs go unfilled, Hendry and co will then more than likely switch to demanding an increase in benefits and denounce “the callous Tories” for not shelling out enough in benefits to keep people idle, even if there is work available.
Such is the whingeing, whining way of SNP MPs. Their only real job is spreading their anti-Tory independence propaganda, while insisting that Westminster shovels yet more billions across the border to fund their inexhaustible free-money demands. Meanwhile, Hendry and the other SNP freeloaders enjoy a very well-heeled lifestyle and never once break sweat.