Finding a solution to a worker shortage

Raissa Tetanish
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AMHERST - For the past few years, Jeff Bembridge hasn't been at full staff at his two businesses so the restaurant owner is looking south to fill the void.

Finding a solution to a worker shortage

AMHERST - For the past few years, Jeff Bembridge hasn't been at full staff at his two businesses so the restaurant owner is looking south to fill the void.

"Two years ago, my employee turnaround would be about one per year. Now, it's one per month," said Bembridge, owner of Bambino's Pizzeria and Duncan's Pub.

Between the two businesses, Bembridge employs 20 fulltime workers and six parttime. He's currently looking for another six but has been having trouble locally to find employees, so wants to hire immigrants.

"In a town of about 10,000, there are about 3,000 that work, and about 300 of those are at TeleTech. We're in an aging population," he said about Amherst.

Early in March, Statistics Canada released data regarding the workforce in Amherst. In the census data for 2006, it stated 14.1 per cent of the workforce in town is nearing retirement age, with 1.9 entrants to the labour force aged 20-34 for every person over 55 who was on their way out.

Five years ago, there were 2.7 entrants nationally for every potential retiree.

Bembridge says he's looking for employees with drive and a good work ethic, and feels immigrants would have just what he's looking for.

"This is hard work and it's very demanding. There's not a lot of gratitude in this. It's not about how much money you make, it's about if you're happy when you're doing it. That's what really matters," he said. "I want people that are happy and want to be here."

Bembridge already has one immigrant employee - a woman from Croatia who has been working for him for a year now. Through her, he has a lead on another, plus already has wheels in motion to bring in a third.

"I don't expect it to take long," he said about filling the positions. "The United States is hungry with Canada was five years ago."

While other employers may have fears of immigrants using their services to get into Canada and move on to another city, Bembridge says it isn't a concern for him, since it could happen with anyone, even local employees.

"You can't do anything about it. I treat my employees right and I do my best to accommodate them."

Organizations: TeleTech, Statistics Canada

Geographic location: AMHERST, Canada, Croatia United States

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Recent comments

  • Steve
    January 18, 2010 - 11:24

    Jason, I and many others beleive that you are wrong in regards to the minimum wage act. It is a impediment to progress. It quantifies a start point for hourly work. It is outdated and is no longer needed.


  • Steve
    January 18, 2010 - 11:22


    We once had to beat our supper with a stick before we could eat.

    Minimum wage effects a very small persentage of the working spectrum. Yes luckily there is nothing stopping employers from offering better wages, except the fact that a number exisits in the act. With out this number epmloyers a free to pay what they beleive the work is worth and employees are free to seek higher paying positions. If the wages are all the same (which they are in this small persentage of jobs) then workers settle for minimum wage, it's that simple.


  • Maria
    January 18, 2010 - 11:21

    I wish u all the best of luck Jeff. You're a great guy, and gave my son(Sanchez) his first job when we moved to Amherst. I'll never forget you man!! You know I'll see you next time I come to town. Bam's is ALWAYS my treat!!

  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 11:21

    but if we have a non-wage min system when those immigrants come hungry for work and unskilled they will take anything and mr. bambino can pay em whatever he wants.

  • Steve
    January 18, 2010 - 11:20

    Jason, I know you and others don't get it. I truly hope we get to see how business would run in a free market society in our life time. Then if I am wrong proof will exist that a minimum wage act is still required. I for one strongly beleive that wages would be higher on avarage with out it.


  • JD
    January 18, 2010 - 11:17

    Oh yes, the solution is simple: pay the employees more! It's just that easy! Next topic please!!

    Get a grip. Business owners aren't made of money. Do you understand the concept of economics? Let's allocate Mr. Bambino's scarce resources for him:

    If he hires 20 full-time workers and pays them $25 hr, then hires 12 more part-time workers and pays them $20, then WHOOPS! All of a sudden Mr. Bambino has no money, Mr. Bambino'a business closes up, and his 32 employees - instead of making minimum wage - no make $0 per week, per month, per infinity.

    Look at the whole picture, morons.

  • Kim
    January 18, 2010 - 11:16

    Actually Huge, you need to realise that this is actually a valuable service to the area, at the expense of Mr.Bembridge, yes there are alot of fights, but he usally ends of footing the bill for the damage. And why-- as those people leaving the bar are hungry, myself I would rather see them concregate downtown on foot rather then jump in their car and head to McDonalds- if his service wasnt there then the problems would just occur somewheres else - and more impared drivers would be on the road causing more deaths. So I think you need to give Jeff a break - -

  • Opinionated
    January 18, 2010 - 11:16

    Here's the thing, this has nothing to do with leading the curve, and it has everything to do with skirting the real issue. Our workers are moving out of province because they will not get the money they deserve, and require to survive in Nova Scotia.

    Tim Horton's coffee costs the same in Alberta, BC or anywhere else in this country. A Tim Horton's employee makes almost double in Alberta what they make in Nova Scotia. This is the same for pizza place employees, receptionists, Radio Shack employees, and pretty much any other form of labour available.

    The real question is, who will lead the pack and start raising salaries to something where employees can survive? We can't buy pizza, take our parents out for dinner, or any of those things anymore because disposable income is a thing of the past.

    Nova Scotia just about has the lowest paid, highest taxed employees in the country. Our oil costs more, our power costs more, and our milk costs more.

    You want Nova Scotians to stay and work for you? Pay them to stay.

  • Steve
    January 18, 2010 - 11:13

    The very idea of a minimum wage is self defeating to this issue. The minimum wage in itself sets the bar so that business owners have a guage to price the market. Elliminate the minimum wage all together and let the market price itself, there are lots of job openings in the area the market would very quickly find eqaulibrium and at a rate much higher than the governments idea odf a minimum hourly pay rate.

    All IMHO as always.

  • Al
    January 18, 2010 - 11:11

    Getting rid of minimum wage is definitely not the answer! The labour market has changed over the past few years, so maybe it's hard to remember when the number of applicants outnumbered a job 200 to 1. Think of the labour force as it was only 15-20 years ago - people would have taken jobs no matter what the pay because they needed to work. Without a minimum wage companies would have been able to pay peanuts (yes, even LESS than minimum wage, which was about $5/hour at that time).

    As previously mentioned, employers always have the option of paying more than minimum wage and this can definitely attract employees. If Bambinos paid a dollar or two more than the other restaurants & retailers in Amherst then more people would want to work there. The problem is that most employers in retail / service only offer minimum wage because that is all they are required to do.

    The government needs to change our seriously out-dated Minimum Labour Standards. Nova Scotia has not only one of the lowest minimum wages, but also the fewest number of Statutory Holidays (only 5 compared to Ontario's 10 and New Brunswick's 7), only one sick day (unpaid) just to name a few barbaric standards.

    Employers (particularly those in retail / service) will only provide the minimum permissable under the law - and this is determined by our pitiful Minimum Labour Standards.

    Who wouldn't want to take a job in Ontario or out West that pays more, offers more time off, and better benefits - for the same work? For years we have been using our wonderful quality of life as an excuse for underpaying and undervaluing our employees. If you have no time off, and no money, your quality of life is not so great! Wake up Nova Scotia! Unless Minimum Labour Standards change, employers won't change, and qualified, skilled employees will continue to leave the province. Enough said.

  • Alexi
    January 18, 2010 - 10:57

    I don't think that the minimum wage scale is the problem, especially when it comes to small business owners trying to make a go of it without having to pay outrageous salaries.

    Consider this: There are alot of people in Amherst who could be available for these jobs and others like them, however their issue is that they are on assistance and need some help from our government with child care expenses, enabling them to join the work force.

    The people I'm referring to would likely not qualify for other higher paying positions, but these types of jobs would give them something to put on their resumes and a sense of accomplishment if they could just afford to get off assistance.

  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 10:57

    I think its wonderful that immigrants will have an opportunity to come and work in Canada. Just not enough workers to fill the need, maybe?

    Also I don't think minimum wage is the problem neither is eliminating it. If the market would *so called* self correct itself for labour then it should occur regardless of whether there is a minimum wage or not.

  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 10:55

    Steve I fail to see how the idea of terminating minimum wage would work to the benefit of employees? If the market forces you allude to are operating it would appear to me that if demand for workers exceeds the supply then the rate of pay would rise irrespective of the prescence of a minimum wage.

  • Lilly
    January 18, 2010 - 10:54

    To Huge Baloney: There is no need to compare MacDonalds, and any other large fast food chain to Bambino's, as that is not comparing apples to apples. These places have the money and resources to provide flexible shifts, competitive wages( Within there competitors), and benefit packages. This is why they will always find people to compensate for the huge turnover that is taking place EVERYWHERE lately. And no, getting rid of min wages is still not going to change the fact that businesses run off a budget, in order to keep going it has to be in a certain bracket. There will always be a min wage as it is part of labour standards.

  • pac
    January 18, 2010 - 10:49

    I agree with opinionated, if you want workers to stay in Nova Scotia start paying enough so they can live. We are an over taxed province and the cost of living is very high here. The rents are even cheaper in Moncton, and so is buying a house, than it is in Amherst. Also wages are a bit higher, on average, in Moncton, Halifax, and other maritime locations.

    You may be able to get some immigrant workers to stay, but for the most part they will end up leaving for higher paying locations. They are not stupid, unless of course they are not legal immigrants.

  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 10:47

    wow thanks alexi, you have made this issue more complicated than a simple free market sytem as argued by steve. You have pointed out another inefficiency in the market.

  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 10:46

    You say *With out this number epmloyers a free to pay what they beleive the work is worth and employees are free to seek higher paying positions*.

    Are you suggesting that the Act prevents them from paying MORE for what the job is? right now it only STOPS them from paying less. Nothing is preventing employers who have trouble getting employees from raising their wages to attract employees. Removing min wage only offers the opportunity of employers to pay less.

    As for your suggestion that employees are free to seek higher paying positions you neglect the position of power that employers have over employees. Especially the unskilled work force. Additionally you neglect the fact that nothing prevents immigrants or foreigners from being taken advantaged of in a market system.

  • Steve
    January 18, 2010 - 10:42


    Govt = lackies
    employes = you and I
    employers = ??


  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 10:42

    So I am clear, I reread your argument as to why a business owner would pay above minimum wage if there was no minimum wage, a system without minimum wage would permit an owner of a business to pay a higher salary? But with a min. wage system the business owner has NO CHOICE but to pay minimum wage EVEN if the job to the employer is worth more? So a benevelent employer would actually pay more NOT LESS under no min. wage.

    I now know why you think I am repeating myself....I don't get your argument, it makes absolutely no sense. The *why* you provide doesn't add up. If an employer feels a job is worth more say for example a situation where no one will work for minimum wage....wouldn't the employer simply raise the wage? You are not making any sense.

  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 10:41

    Hey kids we can be like Steve and live in happy fun no inefficiencies perfect gumdrop market land.

    that fantasy place where negotiations take place between highly skilled employers and low skilled service workers. the result being that the low skilled service worker will use their negotiating clout and get MORE rather than less unlike in that scary socialist/market place we call reality.

    that's where steven and I live...scary socialist/market place because in our land poor employer is just waiting for the day when they can pay more than what they already are able to do. its minimum wages that are keeping employers from giving more! the gov't won't let that happen. steve says they are lackies of the employees, I think they are evil shark men from mars.

    When will everyone wake up from the horrible nightmare of minimum wage that is affecting lawyers and other types and preventing the poor from having very well paid jobs. See in steve's world no inefficiencies in the economics of labour exist nor is it even contemplated. Inciteful? no Myopic Yes!

  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 10:40

    yeah i don't get it, neither does the government, neither do the employees...only the employer understands...

  • Kim
    January 18, 2010 - 10:39

    As a former Bam's Employee, I can say without doubt that it is great place to work. Just like a big family. Hard work- yes, but a great place all the same. Jeff is wonderful to work for, and would do anything for his employees- something that is hard to find in this day and age. Any one who wants to learn could learn alot from Jeff

  • Steve
    January 18, 2010 - 10:37


    You keep saying the same thing over and over again without grasping the gist of the arguement.


  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 10:36

    Leave it to Jeff to be ahead of the curve!

  • Huge
    January 18, 2010 - 10:35

    Some of you folks need to see this for what it is - Jeff Bambino trying to be controversial and garner some free publicity.

    How come I don't hear Dougie Costin or Gerry Moore looking for a bunch of foreign workers? The answer is simple. There are all kinds of people around here looking for work.

    Maybe a lot of people don't find those late hours too appealing. Possibly some parents don't want their teen working at a place which attracts so much late night voilence.

    This whole concept that he needs to go outside the country to find people top schlep hamburgers is really way off base.

    Again, just more free publicity.

  • Steve
    January 18, 2010 - 10:35

    Give up Jason....
    you don't get it.....

    re read again.....


  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 10:33

    Actually Steve there was a time when there was no minimum wage and the Government had to implement it to protect workers from employers.

    Also I think you are under the misapprehension that a minimum wage prevents an employer in a tight labour market from raising wages. An employer desperate for employees would raise his wages wouldn't he? Minimum wages didn't prevent the rise and fall of Techies wages during the Tech Boom/Bust of the late 1990's. So there must be something else. Something to do with the nature of the employment? If that is the case I'd argue that due to the nature of the employment that a removal of a minimum wage would actually decrease the real wages of those working in that sector.

  • Huge
    January 18, 2010 - 10:33

    Hmmmm, Jeff Bambino huh. Isn't this the same cynical guy who posted an ad in this very paper a few years ago looking for an honest politician ?

    Ahead of the curve? No, I don't think do.

    Maybe if he stopped making his employees work until the wee hours of the morning on the weekends his retention rate might improve.

    As would the crime rate on Prince Arthur Street.

  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 10:31

    really, I'm repeating myself, I guess i'm just waiting for a comment on my arguement against yours. I guess you can't answer it.

    As for you suggestion I don't get it. I get your idea of a so-called free market for labour but I don't get is that that market will raise the wages of menial labour. Sorry Steve, it just doesn't work for those sorts of jobs.

    Its funny its normally only business owners who fight min. wage restrictions. I guess they want the option of paying less.

  • Joe
    January 18, 2010 - 10:29

    Instead of immigrants how about you offer more money to these folks? Its not cheap to live, and things are getting more and more expensive. Offer $12-15 an hour, that'll pull you in plenty of loyal employees, and don't try to say you can't afford it.