By James Atkinson

The hospitality sector has recorded its largest ever quarterly wage increase, which the Australian Hotels Association says further demonstrates the need to address the serious labour shortages affecting Australia's pubs.

Hospitality wages increased 2.2% in the three months to September, the largest increase in the 14 year-history of the Australian Bureau of Statistics' Wage Price Index.

This compared with a 0.8% quarterly increase across the entire Australian labour market.

The AHA said in June that hoteliers would will be hit harder than most by continued wage rises.

AHA corporate affairs manager Steven Fanner this week told TheShout the latest figures highlight the impact of the tight labour market on the hospitality industry, with many employers forced to pay above the going rate to retain staff. 

"The removal of chefs and cooks from the Skilled Occupation List and a decline in student visas, normally a strong source of workers for the hospitality sector, are also contributing to the current labour shortage," he said.

Fanner said the AHA has been advocating in Canberra for the easing of restrictions on semi-skilled and short-term migration to fill these shortages. 

"The recent announcement of an expansion to the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme to permit hospitality employers in Broome to engage workers from East Timor is a good start on a small scale," he said.
"There is scope for greater use of short term, non-permanent overseas workers to address labour shortages."

But Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Jeff Lawrence told TheShout the 2.2% increase in the September quarter must be considered in context of the yearly picture, which shows just a 0.1% wage increase in the June quarter, and only a 0.6% and 0.3% increase in the two quarters preceding that.

"Hospitality industry wages increased by 3.1% over the year, well below the pace of inflation, and below the average 3.6% wages growth average across all industries," he said.

Lawrence attributed the spike to seasonal factors that traditionally lead to relatively strong hospitality wages growth in the September quarter, generally followed by several quarters of well-below average growth.

"This happened in 2010, with wages in the industry increasing by 2.0% in September, to be followed by a mere 0.3% in December," he said.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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