Labour shortage fears as McDonald’s, KFC look overseas

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 26th June 2008

Australia’s skills crisis is becoming more evident by the day with fast-food giants McDonald’s and KFC forced to use the ‘457′ skilled visa program to recruit staff in Queensland.The ‘457’ visa, which is currently under review by the Rudd Government, is the most commonly used program for employers to sponsor skilled overseas recruits to work in Australia and allows for a stay of between three months and four years.

McDonald’s Queensland regional manager Andrew Gregory claims a lack of local staff has led to the company searching overseas for managers to work at their Mackay and Mt Isa outlets. “Our individual franchisees have made a decision to keep their businesses running and to provide a service,” Mr Gregory told The Mercury. “We’d prefer not to have to do it, but it’s definitely the right decision from the individual franchisees’ point of view.”

It is understood KFC has also used the program to fill vacancies, with five recruits from the Philippines to help deal with the staff shortfall in some of their regional Queensland locations. Their Mackay store has reportedly had to close on a few occasions in recent weeks due to staff shortages.

The unemployment rate in Australia remains at a very low 4.3%, with Federal Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, recently suggesting that Australia’s skills crisis could be rapidly turning into a labour crisis.

The food industry has been one of the hardest hit, with chefs, waitstaff, managers and agricultural workers particularly hard to find in some areas. Poaching has been increasingly reported as restaurants resort to taking staff from rivals in order to deal with the issue.

The labour shortage is also likely to result in continued wage growth, placing heightened pressure on the bottom line of many companies – which are already struggling to cope with falling demand and higher costs.