America calls the sick – CNN

“We’re basically open during the week to prepare for the weekend,” said Rachel Wyman, owner of the artisan bread, specialty donuts and candy store in Montclair, New Jersey. The 10-year-old bakery remained open throughout the pandemic as it was seen as a vital business. “I can’t remember the last time I made the decision to close on a weekend,” Wyman added.

Without enough bakers to operate, she had no choice. She made the decision Thursday to shut down for a week to give all staff time to “get tested and hopefully come back healthy.”

Wyman pays his employees for the week off. But it’s because of her budget, so she’s late paying the rent on her house.

Although she hopes to open this weekend, the plan is fluid. She discovered on Wednesday that two other employees had tested positive.

The latest wave of coronavirus in the United States, driven by the Omicron variant, has disrupted businesses. It also put a strain on their employees, who were already exhausted from nearly two years of hard work throughout the pandemic and a historic labor shortage.
As America falls back with Covid-19, stores, restaurants, airlines and other industries have little option but to serve customers less – or none at all. Apple (AAPL) last week closed all of its stores in New York to shoppers browsing, while Macy’s (M) said he would shorten his morning and evening hours from Monday to Thursday for the entire month.
Some workers get sick while others call because their child care plans are changing with the closure of some schools. Some employees stay at home fearing they catch the virus at work.
On Wednesday, six employees of a Starbucks (SBUX) in Buffalo who recently voted to join a union has withdrawn citing health concerns. The walkout prompted the store to temporarily close.

Omicron adds to personnel problems

The growing number of sick workers adds to the pressures companies face to retain their staff and fill vacant positions, as well as their demands on their current staff, who are forced to take responsibility. or extra shifts.

The surge has triggered “widespread cancellations and closures as already understaffed businesses are hit by a wave of sick calling staff,” Michael Pearce, senior US economist at Capital Economics, said in an email to clients Wednesday.

Several recent data points, which do not yet factor in the arrival of the Omicron variant, highlight the historically tight US job market.

A record 4.5 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in November, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Tuesday. This pushed the drop-out rate to 3%, matching the September high.

“Workers have continued to leave their jobs at an historic rate. The low-wage sectors directly affected by the pandemic continued to be the source of a large portion of the high departures,” said Nick Bunker, director of research at the Indeed Hiring Lab, in an email. comments Tuesday.

Employers also had 10.6 million jobs to fill in November, down slightly from just over 11 million vacancies in October.

Small business owners, in particular, continue to struggle to find workers: 48% of all small business owners said they had vacancies they couldn’t fill in November, down from ‘a point from October, according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses conducted last year. month.

“Positive, positive, positive”

In New York, one of the first hot spots of the pandemic, Covid-19 cases have exploded in recent weeks. The spike resulted in staff shortages at restaurants like Neir’s Tavern, a small, historic bar in Queens.

On December 18, Neir’s owner Loycent Gordon got a call from one of his bartenders who was not feeling well. The employee later told Gordon he had tested positive.

Gordon has decided that the rest of the staff, which totals roughly eight people in total, should be tested.

“That’s when all hell broke loose,” he said. “Everyone started to feel sick, started posting their test results in group chat. And everyone kept saying positive, positive, positive.”

Loycent Gordon, owner of Neir's Tavern, in a photo taken in early 2020.

For about a week and a half after that, the staff at the Neir Tavern, consisting of eight people, was reduced to two. Gordon himself tested positive during this time and suffered symptoms and had to self-isolate.

Due to the outages, Gordon closed the tavern for two days in addition to a planned closure on Christmas Day. He also canceled events like the quiz bar and open mic night.

Hiring temporary staff was not an option, he said. Gordon and most of his employees being sick, “Who’s going to train them?” “

Gupshup, a modern Indian restaurant in Manhattan, also suffered from a staff shortage, owner Jimmy Rizvi said. Due to workers calling in sick, Rizvi and other staff members had to wear different hats to operate the restaurant.

“I stepped in as a host., My boss… had to work on the lines,” he said. On another occasion, when a bartender didn’t show up, a barback filled up.

The ad-hoc approach means that, so far, Gupshup has not had to close its doors. As Rizvi said, “We juggled our existing staff.”

Anneken Tappe of CNN Business contributed to this article.


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