Lauris Aleksejevs, chef and owner at the restaurant 36. līnija, said that employees are driven to go abroad for two reasons: uncertainty about the future and the fact that Latvian catering companies cannot provide enough work for employees due to seasonality and constraints.
“The staff choose to go abroad. If we're talking about the financial side right now, I don't know when we will be able to compete with anyone at all. These seven, eight euros per hour, which is paid by restaurants, can be topped by any foreign company. [..] Three people have left my company. Two to Norway, one to Sweden. That's what it is,” said Aleksejevs.
A survey conducted by the Latvian Restaurant Association (LRB) also confirms the fact. 137 catering companies participated in the survey and 46% of them said that at least three employees had gone abroad. There are also companies where more than 10 people have chosen to leave the country.
Jānis Jenzis, president of the LRB, said that there is a huge risk that the pandemic will severely damage the catering industry, and there will certainly be businesses that will not overcome the crisis. As regards employees and their recruitment, Jenzis predicts that wages will have to be raised inevitably.
“In fact, wage fluctuations are more related to employee shortages than productivity or job quality gains. It would be logical if it were linked to measurable indicators rather than being a step of despair. At the same time, we have not yet received approval from the European Commission for the salaries of employees in October. Not to mention November. A rather dramatic situation, but I hope that our Cabinet will come together more than it has before, and the restrictions will be short, targeted, precise, aligned with the industry, arranged in dialogue, not as an instruction from above,” said Jenzis.
Luminor Bank's economist Pēteris Strautiņš said that the catering sector is not the most attractive in terms of pay and, in his opinion, many have reprofiled in this crisis. The economist predicts that lifting wages will be inevitable.
"In order to restore operations, these people will have to be "bought back" from elsewhere. Some of them have settled into industries where there are much higher wages. So in the future, it is absolutely clear that catering services will become more expensive," said the economist.