By Greg Owens, Co-Founder and CEO, Sherrill Manufacturing/Liberty Tabletop
There have been a lot of strange events that have transpired as a result of the pandemic but perhaps none as absurd as the governments continued policies designed to keep people at home and out of the workforce. It is understandable that at the beginning of the pandemic many businesses were shut down and those who could began to work remotely from their homes. Early on in the crisis it was evident that manufacturing was an essential business and most in the sector were allowed to re-open their factories. These factories produced everything from food to automobiles as well as masks and other essentials needed for everyday living.
During this period, most businesses implemented health and safety protocols to protect workers from contracting Covid-19 at work. These included the implementation of symptom screening, education, sanitizing, mask wearing, installation of shields, social distancing, internal contact tracing, and modifications to work rules that were all designed to minimize risk. These practices have worked well and have resulted in minimal transmission of the virus at the workplace.
Now that the virus appears to be well under control, we approach the point were most Americans that want the vaccine have either had both doses or are close to it, and the winter months are giving way to summer sun, it only seems logical that the government would be shifting gears and trying to get people back to work. Absurdly, but not surprisingly, they have done the exact opposite. The second part of the second wave of stimulus money, the extension of unemployment benefits through September and the additional $300/week are creating a situation where capable and much needed workers are staying on the couch.
From manufacturing to hospitality, it is hard to find a business that is not understaffed. Most places of business have and have had help wanted signs up for months. In speaking with HR professionals, the hiring effort has shifted from a goal of narrowing down candidates to find the perfect person to opening up the requirements to be more “inclusive”. That is HR speak for lowering standards and settling for anyone who they can find to fill the position. You can’t raise wages to compete with the government stimulus package of unemployment, weekly premiums and big stimulus checks. It is a conundrum that is without exception plaguing every manufacturing business that I have spoken with in the past 6 months.
So what is the solution? For starters the government needs to recognize the errors of their actions and reverse some of the decisions they have made, including the political move to extend benefits through September. Getting the government to admit that they made a mistake will never happen. Instead I propose that they declare victory over the virus, take full credit for having solved the pandemic and use that as a premise for moving the date back from September to June 1st. That would get our economy back on track this summer, not next fall. There is no logical reason to wait. This needs to end now!