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Flying the flag for Jersey hotels

The island’s hospitality association is pressing government to help them overcome a staffing crisis.

Recruiting staff who already live locally – or providing or helping to find accommodation for new employees – is one of the hurdles often faced by the UK’s hotel managers and executive housekeepers. Now imagine that tricky task being very much harder, and you soon appreciate the issues faced by Jersey’s hospitality sector. The Channel Islands are what is known as self-governing Crown Dependencies.

Time for change: The JHA has launched its own manifesto as the island prepares for a new-style general election

They’re not part of the UK, nor have they ever been in the EU and did not vote in the 2016 Referendum. However, the result meant they too had to leave the single market and customs union. A row over fishing grounds licences saw French fishing boats threatening to blockade St Helier – and two Royal Navy gunboats on patrol just in case.

A French politician didn’t help matters when he suggested the electricity supplies to the island, which rely on French power stations, might be cut. Today the dispute rumbles on, with a tangle of red tape, although France has not used the Withdrawal Agreement mechanisms to mount a full legal challenge.

One thing’s for sure, Jersey’s hospitality businesses were already negotiating some strictly controlled routes to finding staff even before Freedom of Movement ended and EU citizens had to apply for settled status to stay in the UK. The Jersey system involves paying for a work permit allowing a temporary worker to be based there.

Until recently it was for just nine months (the person must then leave the island for three months) but with the pandemic crisis to cope with as well, the Jersey government has agreed the critical labour shortages in hospitality need solving. A one-off exception has been announced whereby employers can apply to extend existing valid permits – or any applied for prior to April – for a further nine months. After that the worker must still depart from Jersey for at least three months. But for some of those at the sharp end this is just a peeling sticking plaster.

They are bidding to make the most of an opportunity coming their way in June when Jersey’s general election is held, and for the first time under a new electoral system which will see the island’s Senators replaced with Deputies elected from across nine districts. This has led to several new political parties forming, including people elected under the old system.

Not a political party but seizing its chance to bang the campaign drum for our sector, The Jersey Hospitality Association (JHA) has launched its own ‘Manifesto’ and is calling on the next government to work with them to nurture and rebuild hospitality after the combined effects of Covid-19 and Brexit.

Key recommendations include that two-year temporary work permits are issued for hospitality workers alongside an accommodation strategy for their temporary staff. Jersey has strict rules on who can rent property. Controlling who lives there, even for a while, is understandable but the regulations are off-putting and monthly rents out price most workers as they match London levels. The JHA believes that purpose-built accommodation could be the solution.

The association is also seeking initiatives to boost skills, local talent and grow visitor numbers and is calling for a dedicated political champion for hospitality and tourism. Such moves are very much in line with the strategy of HospitalityUK as it lobbies the Westminster and Scottish governments and Welsh Assembly, as well as the concerns of regional hospitality bodies around the country.

JHA chief executive Claire Boscq, says she hopes the manifesto sends a clear message that its members want to work with the government on ensuring the future of a vibrant industry: “The way of life we value in Jersey is supported by the many hospitality businesses that provide excellent service and venues. Without them, Jersey would lose its beating heart. “Hospitality businesses are crucial to Jersey’s recovery from the pandemic, but they need all the support they can get due to the effects of Brexit and rising costs.”

Jersey has fabulous tourism lures including great beaches, scenery, dining delights and attractions like medieval Orgueil Castle, much of which has been restored in recent years
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