Shops and fast-food restaurants struggling with labor shortage

Opening of a Burger King in Estonia.
Opening of a Burger King in Estonia. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Many supermarket and fast-food chains have hundreds of vacant jobs and are even using TV commercials to attract workers, requiring no prior experience.

Kaire Tero, head of HR for the Rimi chain of supermarkets, said that finding employees is extremely difficult at the moment.

"We have 150 vacancies. Finding customers service representatives and cooks-bakers is the hardest right now," she said.

Rimi is using TV commercials to recruit workers as campaigns offering the greatest possible visibility tend to work best. Tero said the company has done it before to showcase the benefits and values Rimi offers.

McDonald's also uses commercials where it promises to hire people irrespective of age, education and work experience.

Anastasija Zubov, head of HR and training for McDonald's Baltic, said they plan to offer 250 jobs in Estonia of which 55 are new positions. She added that no McDonald's employee lost their job during the pandemic.

Filling station chain Circle K is looking for around 100 workers to man its service stations all over Estonia. The company's HR director Piret Kask said that inflation and the labor market situation have put companies in an unprecedented situation to which the start of the summer season is bound to add.

She said that the main challenge is the abundance of vacancies, leading to greater labor turnover. Circle K usually hires young people 18-25 years of age, while people in the age group are spoiled for choice on the labor market.

"Competition on the labor market has become even closer as several international companies (Lidl and IKEA) have recently entered the Estonian market looking for staff, as are restaurants and hotels," Kask suggested.

She added that Circle K does not require prior experience but willingness to work and learn because the company believes every skill can be obtained in the process.

"We have a lot of positive experience where young people have taken their first job with us in the summer and stayed on part-time later," the HR head said.

Both Circle K and McDonald's emphasized the role salary plays in finding employees. The former recently changed its policy and now adjusts salaries based on the market situation twice a year. McDonald's has increased salaries by 12 percent in the last year and will be offering another wage hike of 7 percent from July 1.

Language skills standing in the way of hiring Ukrainians

Circle K welcomes people coming from Ukraine and has hired 20 refugees by today. The company offers them simpler work that does not require Estonian proficiency.

"For example, the employee is responsible for keeping the service station tidy, putting products on display and preparing food. We are willing to hire people making progress learning the official language as customer service representatives once they have a sufficient level of Estonian. Our experience of a few months suggests the Ukrainians we hired are hardworking, keen to learn and enrich our working environment," Kask said.

Rimi employs a number of Ukrainians, while it has done little to alleviate labor shortage. The main reason is that customer service people need to speak Estonian.

Anastasija Zubov also said that McDonald's have contacted refugee organizations to hire Ukrainians. They have no special requirements for refugees, while employees seeing to customers need to speak Estonian.

Supermarket chain Maxima said last week that it has hired 181 Ukrainian refugees since March 9, mainly as floor workers but also as cashiers in smaller settlements. Ukrainians have also been hired to work at the company's kitchen, logistics center and offices. Maxima offers around 190 vacancies in Estonia right now.

Data from Statistics Estonia suggests Estonian companies had over 13,000 vacant jobs in the first quarter of the year, up 38 percent on year.

At the same time, registered unemployed numbered 45,575 as of June 6, with unemployment at 7 percent. Unemployment is highest in Ida-Viru County and Valga County.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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