Thousands of hospitality businesses turn lights off in protest of mass staff shortages

Thousands of hospitality businesses are preparing to turn off their lights tonight to protest the urgent need for border exemptions for workers. 

They say they're in the midst of a staffing crisis. But they could soon be in for some relief.

Two thousand hospitality businesses are demanding the Government allow them to bring in more staff on working visas so they can simply stay open.

Jose Pallippat who owns a Little India restaurant says the pressure is immense.

"We are under tremendous staff shortage. As an owner-operator I'm putting in extra hours, existing staff are doing extra hours."

Ethnic restaurants are especially desperate.  

"They are skilled employees. With the COVID our staff are still stuck in India and are not able to come back," Pallippat told Newshub. 

Pre-COVID, the hospitality industry was made up of between 25-30 percent of migrant workers but now this was down to about 15 percent, with shortages sector-wide.

The President of the Restaurant Association Mike Egan says 20,000 workers are needed over the next five years.

"The current staffing shortage is the worst in 40 years - we've bever seen anything like it." 

And Mike Egan says the Government could solve it easily, by renewing visas for those already here.

"It's really simple -  Government can you please just have these people renew their visas if they want to stay." 

The Prime Minister says there will be moves to address the problem -  soon.

"We have discussed what we can do, in the face of what is a very large number and a genuine need, at the same time continuing to encourage sectors to draw on and train the New Zealand domestic workforce." 

"We have to live in hope.. the Government's all-powerful,"  says Egan. 

But hope alone won't keep the lights on.