Diego De Jesus
Florida Southern has faced an understaffing issue since the pandemic started in 2020, evidenced by the stacking trays in the conveyor belt at Wynee’s Bistro and the growing lines at Tutu’s with few employees rushing to keep up with orders.
There are many reasons for understaffing on campus, including a general trend of resignations in the food service industry dubbed “The Great Resignation,” but another perceived potential cause are government vaccination mandates
“Most recently, there was a government mandate of companies of 100 or more people to mandate the vaccines,” Food Service Director Tim Raible said. “It’s not something that caused me to have a major walkout of employees. As far as loss of employees as a result of the mandate, I’ve lost two.”
The understaffing issue at Florida Southern College mirrors the United States at the moment since the hospitality and food service industry has been affected the most by COVID-19.
Before the pandemic, the total number of food service employees on campus was 165. Now the average is around 115-120 after hiring new employees.
“There was a lot that we lost as a result of COVID itself. We laid off all of our employees during the beginning of COVID in 2020. Of the 164 that were laid off, a lot of them retired over that period because they were laid off for months,” Raible continued. “It went over into the summertime, and so it was probably about a six-month layoff.”
Since 2020, the first year the campus’s food services were operational again, the number of employees has not returned to the original 165. This includes the deaths of two employees from COVID-19.
Issues are caused by the low staff and quarantined employees from positive COVID-19 results, causing the remaining staff to take the same workload.
Many employees have been contact-traced or tested positive, which has led to more difficulty maintaining campus-wide efficiency.
For example, just last week, three employees at every food venue came in contact with COVID-19 and were temporarily asked to leave per protocol. In one venue, five employees were affected by COVID-19.
An excess of 15 employees out for a minimum of five days is just one case of the food service staff trying to maintain efficiency, putting more stress on the existing employees. They now have to cut in for those temporarily absent, working seven days.
Guest Services, the company that handles food on Florida Southern’s campus, mandates its employees to get vaccinated but that doesn’t mean they would get fired on the spot because of it.
“The company is very compassionate. It’s not get vaccinated or get fired. You can opt-out of the vaccinations; it’s just then you must test weekly. That’s an option, as well as for any type of medical or religious. You can opt-out of the mandated vaccines,” Raible said.
If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, the quarantine protocols depend on their vaccination status. Unvaccinated employees who show symptoms must quarantine for a minimum of five days, based on whether they still show symptoms.
After that, they have to go 24 hours without assistance, such as aspirin, to take down a fever to work again.
Guest Services also hires students and wants to promote employing more of them in the future.
But with the pandemic, attracting new employees, in general, has been difficult, and the same can be said across the United States.
“There’s some great benefits for working with Guest Services, so it’s definitely something that I hope we can attract more students,” Raible said.