Brittany Bowers and Shelby Ens are part of a team at Sooke Home Hardware, where staffing is not a problem. (Rick Stiebel - Sooke News Mirror)

Lack of staff hamstrings business in Sooke

Chamber of commerce says numerous businesses affected

Finding enough staff to keep the doors open for the optimal number of hours is a problem in Sooke.

Britt Santowski, executive director of the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce, said staffing is an issue that’s impacted many businesses.

“Some businesses have turned down events because they lack staff,” she said. “I hear that from other chambers as well. The question is how to attract staff, whether by offering benefits, a four-day work week, or more than minimum wage.”

The situation is not necessarily tied to a shortage resulting from students returning to school in September.

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“I’m hearing that (it’s been a problem) throughout the summer,” Santowski said. “The chamber could not hire students this summer, despite offering more wages than we have in the past. It’s the first time in 40 years that it’s a job seekers market. I haven’t seen this since the mid-1980s.”

Mohamed Zeid, store manager/operator of the Pharmasave in Sooke, said there are several factors to consider.

“It’s been a challenge for different reasons,” he explained.

“It began to show up during COVID when people with cold or flu-like symptoms were told to stay home until they were cleared to return to work. We didn’t know how many days that might be, and it caused a 30 per cent staff shortage.”

Zeid said another reason for staffing issues is inflation and the high cost of living.

“Even if we pay the maximum that we can for a position, that’s not enough to cover the cost of living for some people,” he said. “We’re also competing with the salary range offered by non-retail employers. That has led to people we had before and during COVID seeking employment elsewhere.”

The recent decision by the provincial government to expand the services that pharmacies can provide, such as filling some prescriptions, has an impact on staffing as well, Zeid added.

Linda Mayled, assistant manager at Sooke Home Hardware, said they have no issues with staffing.

“We have students who work during the summer and part-time, and we have no problem filling positions,” she said. “We treat our staff the right way, it’s a fun workplace, we pay a competitive wage, and there are always opportunities to grow.”



news@sookenewsmirror.com

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