180,000 Canadian restaurant workers leave industry during pandemic: CCPA

By Mike Eppel

TORONTO (NEWS 1130) — About 180,000 workers have left the food services industry since the start of the pandemic and they’re not going back, according to a left-leaning Canadian think tank.

The Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) says there are so many help-wanted postings in the restaurant industry now because of low wages and the precarious nature of the restaurant business.

Many workers were also laid off due to COVID-19 restrictions and the closure of many businesses in the food services sector.

Many of those workers have opted to move into other sectors, according to CCPA, including going to work for professionals such as accountants and lawyers.

“There has been a gain in workers in the professional, scientific and technical services (think accountants’, lawyers’, architects’ offices etc.). In an odd coincidence, that sector has gained 183,000 workers since February 2020,” the report reads.

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The report added, if industries are hoping to entice people back, it would have to be with higher pay, better hours and benefits.

For the short term, the CCPA would like to see:

  • Higher prices in sectors where the cost increase can be paid by consumers;
  • Self-imposed restrictions in terms of hours of capacity;
  • Government support;
  • And changes to work practices to conserve labour.

A longer-term solution would be a renewed drive for more temporary foreign workers to fill vacancies without raising wages.

“Those workers, with no path to citizenship and limited access to basic labour rights, could allow low-wage business models to survive the pandemic—though this is clearly not an optimal trend for workers,” the study reads.

CCPA is also calling for a higher minimum wage which it says could be possible if customers pay higher prices.

“This also ensures that all employers have to pay those higher costs. That reduces the competitive constraints on individual employers unilaterally raising their wages.”

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