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Latvian factories have trouble finding workers, but they say the pay's fair

Fish processing companies and the Orkla (former Laima) chocolate factory are seeing labor shortages, particularly for positions requiring little skill and having high employee turnover. 

The majority of vacancies at the Karavella fish processing factory are occupied by long-term workers, but about 30 to 40% of the positions have high turnover, says company head Andris Bite.

"In the changeable sector of the workers we're fighting for people's motivation to work at all, to do a good, precise, quick and disciplined job. We lack about 20% of employees for fulfilling outstanding orders," says Bite. 

Karavella have halted a €8 million investment plan that would extend its exports to Germany and the US. It entails hiring another 80 people, whom they'd have trouble finding.

Nevertheless Bite tells Latvian Radio that their average wage across the factory, including for low-skilled professions, was €930 before tax. That is just about the average wage in the country (€927 in Q2, 2017). 

A similar situation is at the Dobeles Dzirnavnieks grain processing company. Last summer they faced trouble in making deadlines for their clients as they couldn't find six workers, said head of production Ģirts Jēčis. 

While Dobeles Dzirnavnieks invest in automatizing work, it's at a slower pace than the labor shortage.

Company head Kristaps Amsils says they're worried about summer, as the construction sector will offer high wages thanks to EU funds. "Last year we were much influenced by the EU funds influx, which resumed and will continue this year as well," says Amsils. 

He estimates the company would need some 10% more long-term employees. 

Latvian Radio also visits the Laima sweets making company on Tallinas street in Riga where employees put together tasty pastries, and it's an area that's unusual in central Riga for smelling sweetly thanks to this factory.

HR head Veronika Linkuma says the company lacks short-term employees, starting from August, for at least four months when their orders skyrocket for the Christmas season. The Orkla factories open up at least 200 temporary positions at that time. 

"In Riga and near Riga, where our factories are located, unemployment is particularly low and thus it's impossible to find people, as they're looking for long-term not temp jobs," she says. 

This company is lacking about 40 employees on a regular basis. About ten people visit each day inquiring about job opportunities but most don't even try. 

62,000 people are unemployed in Latvia. Businesses say drawing them back into the labor market is a long-term task, and entrepreneurs are not eager to spend that time waiting. 

Businesses have long asked to ease guest worker access to Latvia's job market, but so far to no avail.

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