restaurant catering worker

The proposed skills card for tourism and hospitality workers is a positive step that will “surely” raise standards, according to leading restaurant owners, who do not however believe that the move will have any impact on their expenses.

BusinessNow.mt asked two restaurateurs for their views on whether the new skills card will improve the quality of workers in Malta’s catering sector, ahead of the 16th November closing of the public consultation on the matter.

“Without a doubt,” replies Sean Gravina, head chef and owner of the popular St Julian’s establishment Crust Bistro & Bar. “I don’t want to make sweeping generalisations, but the fact is that many workers come to Malta barely knowing how to speak or understand English.”

Sean Gravina

Mr Gravina describes the courses required as “the most obvious, basic, simple skills needed to work in this industry.”

Nor does he think that the measure will increase costs for restaurateurs, despite warnings to that effect from industry lobbies.

“Of course, it depends on what people are paying. Those paying workers minimum wage might be affected, but on the whole, the wages that have been offered to TCNs over the last couple of years are considerably higher.”

He notes that industry wages increased during the severe staffing shortage experienced in 2021. The situation has since improved, in terms of quantity, but quality remains lacking: “Many workers simply don’t have the right skills.”

The question of expenses arises because the course will cost €450 plus €125 for the assessment, presenting a financial burden for prospective applicants. However, local and EU workers, who will be subject to the requirement to have a skills card from 2025, will be offered these courses and assessments for free.

Meanwhile, Maltese and EU students wishing to work in the industry for the summer months – a very common practice – will be issued a temporary card that exempts them from the required training for up to three months.

Michelle Muscat

Mr Gravina continues: “It’s not like we are asking for diplomas in French cuisine or silver service. We’re asking for basic English. That should be included in the package for any worker – it is not something that should result in increased wages, because it is already part and parcel of the skills we assume all workers should have.”

Similarly, Association of Catering Establishments president Michelle Muscat, owner of Ristorante La Vela, agrees that the introduction of the skills card will increase quality “for sure”.

The question, she says, “is the way it is going to be implemented – that will make all the difference.”

She argues that surrounding the measure with too much red tape would cause problems.

With regards to whether the move would prove a burden on employers, Ms Muscat points out that cost of the course and assessment will be borne by applicants. Additionally, with locals and EU citizens receiving the training for free, cost pressures should be limited, she says, while stressing that more information needs to come out before a final stand can be taken.

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