Chef James Varghese is hard at work preparing meals at The Nineteenth in Castlegar. The restaurant is filling take-out orders despite a staffing shortage. Photo submitted

Kootenay businesses struggling to find workers

People are opting to stay home and collect CERB rather than return to work.

As businesses try to stay open or gear up to reopen in the wake of COVID-19, many face a common problem — finding people willing to work.

Castlegar restaurateur Florio Vassilakakis has faced a number of hurdles including potential employees turning down job offers or asking him to pay them under the table so they can still qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

And it’s not because he was offering low-paying jobs. Vassilakakis was offering full-time jobs at $8 above minimum wage.

“I don’t understand how business is going to get through this if people aren’t willing to go back to work and lose that benefit,” said Vassilakakis.

It’s a scenario that Castlegar Chamber of Commerce executive director Tammy Verigin-Burk has been hearing repeatedly.

While both Vassilakakis and Verigin-Burk say they think the CERB program is great for those who need it, they have concerns over its unintended consequences negatively impacting the economy.

“People are not refusing to work because they fear the virus, they fear losing the benefit,” said Vassilakakis. “People are missing the fact that the benefits are short term, but job opportunities are long term.”

Verigin-Burk emphasized that people in high-risk categories have valid reasons for not returning to work at this point. But she says healthy people who refuse to return to work for employers that have met all provincial COVID guidelines may face consequences they haven’t considered.

“If people are not returning to work and you have met all of the COVID standards, an employer can resubmit a record of employment stating that the person is unwilling to return to work,” explained Verigin-Burk.

That person would then no longer qualify to receive the benefit.

Verigin-Burk has a strong message for people who refuse to work now, thinking they will return to work once the CERB is over.

“Due to the fact they are not returning now, the odds that they will be getting their job back in the future are slim to none,” she says. “It is a blessing that CERB came along to help those that really need it. But it is concerning for those taking advantage of it.”

One requirement of the CERB is that a person cannot have left their job voluntarily.

“If there are jobs available and they are choosing not to do it, basically what they are doing when they apply for the CERB is against the law. They are giving false information if they say there is no job for them,” said Verigin-Burk.

Unless extended, the CERB will be in place for 16 weeks.

READ MORE: Feds unveil new COVID-19 emergency benefit for students, $9B in funding

www.facebook.com

CoronavirusRestaurants

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Katrine Conroy has won for the fifth time in the Kootenay West riding. Photo: Submitted
Katrine Conroy ready to tackle challenges after election

Conroy won the Kootenay West riding for the fifth time

Logan Terness made 31 saves to backstop the Trail Smoke Eaters to a 4-2 victory over the Cranbrook Bucks on Saturday at the Cominco Arena. Jim Bailey photo.
Trail Smoke Eaters double up Bucks, take Game 3 of Kootenay Cup

The Trail Smoke Eaters Chase Dafoe scored the game winner in a 4-2 victory over Cranbrook Saturday

Katrine Conroy
Katrine Conroy declared winner in Kootenay West

Preliminary results put NDP candidate firmly in the lead.

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health sees 31 new cases of COVID-19 over record-breaking weekend

Eighty-six cases remain active and one person is hospitalized with the virus

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

Most Read