Hotel owners are having difficulty in finding local staff, due to a number of disagreements with union workers but also immigration rules that put many restrictions on foreign students who are willing to work.
The problem with hiring hotel staff has been known for some time, as union workers in recent years have been demanding higher pay and collective contracts while hotel owners have been trying to adjust to a new business model.
The unions say employers offer “starvation wages” through individual contracts, adding that they blame their bosses for not showing interest in their employees or their labour rights.
The debate has been raging on with hotel owners arguing that knowledgeable staff is needed while a level of flexibility in working hours is also necessary due to new demands in the hotel industry.
Easing visa restrictions for foreign students could help alleviate some of the problems in the industry
Hotel owners have also been lobbying the government to ease visa restrictions on foreign students.
Currently, foreign students from non-EU countries can work up to 20 hours per week on conditions during school session, which is part-time for immigration purposes, or work full time during summer vacation and school breaks.
But they cannot work in the hotel industry unless their field of study is related to this type of work.
Hotel owners want to change this rule, hoping to allow any foreign student in any field to work in the hotel industry provided they follow all other regulations, such as part-time work during school and meeting all other visa requirements.
A shortage of hotel staff in specific job categories, such as dishwashers who must work based on demand or other unskilled positions, could mean that hotels cannot provide appropriate service, with hotel owners saying this could have a damaging impact on the industry.
The president of the Paphos local branch of the Cyprus Hotel Association, Thanos Michaelides, told CNA on Tuesday that wages are “satisfactory” but it is increasingly difficult to find local workers because they prefer to look for non-seasonal employment.
Michaelides said easing visa restrictions for foreign students could not only benefit the individuals with summer work but also help alleviate some of the problems in the industry, namely the seasonality question.