Thomas M. Barwick INC

Employers call for urgent action to tackle Covid staff shortages

Illness resulting from Covid, quarantine and self-isolation are causing havoc in schools and business.  In three-quarters of businesses staff being unavailable for work is weighing on business activity and production.

In hospitals and care homes up to a quarter of staff are out due to infections, quarantine or because they have to look after children.  Police stations are not immune either.  In Tongeren (Limburg) one police station is being closed because so many staff are in quarantine.

Car manufacturer Audi in Brussels is closed for the entire week due to the number of infections.  It’s not the only business struggling. Pieter Timmermans of the Belgian Employers’ Organisation VBO:

“You see the number of staff that are out rise every day.  Three cheers for the businesspeople and staff who are still at work.  They are working on emergency plans and looking how production can be reorientated”.

9.4% of staff in businesses in the food sector are unavailable.  In nearly half of these businesses the figure is above 10%.

One in three SMEs is suffering loss of turnover due to staff shortages.  Two out of three businesses are experiencing problems due to staff shortages at companies they work with.

Employers are almost unanimously calling for fresh temporary legislation to allow businesses to tackle staff shortages with greater flexibility than usual.  Employers and the liberal and Christian unions are backing an agreement to achieve this, but employment minister Dermagne needs to work out a legal framework.

Businesses are seeking a more flexible approach to deploying temporary staff, students, and workers on reduced hours.

“We’re talking about up to 5 weeks, until the end of February” says Timmermans. “We’ve been forced to discuss this for too long. There is no point waiting for weeks.  If there is procrastination, the production companies will have to close, and staff will have to sign on temporarily”.

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