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Labour shortage leads Musgrave Group to lobby Government on visa rules

A labour shortage across the retail and hospitality sector has led to SuperValu and Centra owner Musgrave to lobby the Government for changes to foreign visa rules to get more workers into the country.

The Musgrave Group is one of the largest employers in the country with over 35,000 people working across its stores in Ireland.

Records from the lobbying register show the group recently met with Minister of State from the Department of Enterprise Damien English, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and MEP Mairead and other politicians to lobby for changes to visa requirements to make it easier to recruit from third countries.

Director of corporate affairs Edel Clancy told The Irish Times that staff shortages were an issue “across the board” for retail and there was a need to recruit from outside Ireland and the EU as a result.

“While Covid and Brexit exacerbated the problem, they didn’t cause it. The skills we need are now in short supply across the country. We do upskilling and developing the careers of the people we have in store and we have very high retention but we still have gaps,” she said.

The Musgrave Group does “all of the usual things in terms of recruitment and are very supportive of the idea of apprenticeships being added to the CAO” but the high cost of living in Ireland was still a deterrent to a lot of workers, Ms Clancy said.

Ms Clancy said the Government needed to “do more in terms of the cost of accommodation and public transport.”

“We exhaust all avenues to hire Irish workers and EU workers but there is a shortage across the board, so we have to recruit from outside the EEA,” she explained.

Last October, Minister of State for Business Damien English abolished the quota of 320 for employment permits granted to HGV drivers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

Some 187 such employment permits have been issued, mainly to South Africa. The haulage industry estimates there is a shortage of between 3,000 and 4,000 drivers.

More builders, hospitality managers, horticulture workers, dairy-farm assistants and meat processors are also to be allowed the work permits, as are social workers and opticians.

In response to a query from The Irish Times about whether changes to work permits would be extended to workers in retail and hospitality, a spokesman said changes are made to employment permit occupations lists “where there are no suitable Irish/EEA nationals available and the labour shortage is genuine and not due to working conditions or the salary being offered.”

The occupations lists are subject to twice yearly evidence-based review and take account of research undertaken by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SOLAS) and the Expert Group of Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), a public consultation process, input from the relevant policy Departments and the Economic Migration Inter-Departmental Group, chaired by the Department.

The next review of the Occupations Lists will open in the coming weeks by Public Consultation.

“Organisations in the sector can then provide the necessary data to substantiate their claims with a detailed evidence-based case showing structured engagement with the Department of Social Protection and engagement on training initiatives,” the spokesman said.

Mr English was “committed to supporting the needs of the retail sector and continues to engage directly with operators”.


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Our council tried to force us to sell our £200,000 home to make room for asylum seekers: Elderly couple’s horror after strongly-worded letter lands on their doorstep

An elderly couple who had just moved into their £200,000 house were horrified to receive a letter from their council suggesting the property could be subject to compulsory purchase and used to house asylum seekers.

Jose and Ted Saunders said they were ‘insulted and shocked’ when the strongly-worded letter from North Northamptonshire Council – which has never balanced its own books – dropped on their mat last month.

It said their neat mid-terraced house in Rushden, near Wellingborough, was deemed to be an empty property, or was ‘derelict’ and the council could even force them to sell it.

‘I couldn’t believe it,’ said retired carer Jose, 76. ‘We moved to Rushden to help provide childcare for my grand-daughter and found this nice little place to live.

‘The idea of forcing us to sell it to make room for refugees and asylum seekers seems totally wrong.’

Jose and Ted Saunders, the couple who received a letter from the council suggesting their property could be subject to a compulsory purchase order and used to house asylum seekers

The letter that Jose and Ted received from North Northamptonshire Council last month

The letter, headed ‘Empty Properties and sites initiative’ had their exact address in bold and stated: ‘We are writing as we have reason to believe that the above-named premises… is empty or unused.

‘The Government has identified empty privately-owned properties as a potential cause of blight within communities, and as a wasted resource at time of high housing need.’

The letter continued that the council was seeing a ‘considerable increase’ in positive immigration decisions being made in favour of asylum seekers, mainly single men, and the authority was ‘struggling’ to source suitable accommodation for them.

It added: ‘The ideal long-term solution would be to provide accommodation by using empty properties which would benefit owners and the project.’

It said the council could make a compulsory purchase order on the property.

The couple thought the they were going to lose their home worth £200,000 (above)

The couple thought the they were going to lose their home worth £200,000 (above)

North Northamptonshire Council has never managed to balance its budget since its inception in 2021. The council has said increased pressures from demand-led services have driven up costs.

Added Jose: ‘It was all the more worrying as we’d only moved in last November, so we still hadn’t received the deeds for the house.’

Retired driving instructor Ted, 78, and his wife called the council and asked what was going on.

Three days later they received an apology, saying their staff had mistakenly ear-marked the house for possible compulsory purchase, but the Saunders were still baffled by the policy itself.

‘What on earth is the council doing forcing people to sell their houses – and even an empty house is owned by someone – so that asylum seekers can live in them?’ asked Jose.

‘The answer to this is to stop them coming in the first place, not to force people out of their homes.’

The incident was seized upon by the Reform UK Party, whose candidate in Thursday’s (Feb 15) Wellingborough by-election, Ben Habib, heard about the couple.

Mr Habib, who is also the party’s co-deputy leader, told MailOnline: ‘I was horrified to hear the plight of Mr. & Mrs. Saunders, but my horror could not compare to what they experienced last month.

‘They were served with a letter from North Northamptonshire District Council seeking to possess their home. The accusation made was their home was derelict and the Council intended to use it to house single young men seeking asylum. Known to the rest of us as illegal migrants.

‘ I can confirm their home is most certainly not derelict. It was well appointed and cared for. They were distraught by the threat made by the Council. They feared not having title deeds and being incapable of defending their position. It was not until they visited the Council and after much pleading they managed to get the Council to desist.

The Saunders had just moved in to their new home when they received a letter from the council suggesting that could be the subject of a compulsory purchase order by the council

The Saunders had just moved in to their new home when they received a letter from the council suggesting that could be the subject of a compulsory purchase order by the council

A spokesman North Northamptonshire Council apologised to the couple for suggesting that their home could be sold top house asylum seekers - and said it had been sent in error

A spokesman North Northamptonshire Council apologised to the couple for suggesting that their home could be sold top house asylum seekers – and said it had been sent in error  

‘It is utterly shocking that the Council would fire off a letter like that to two elderly people. And do so with the aim of buying a £200,000 house for asylum seekers. This from a Council that is as good as bust and has never filed consolidated accounts since it was established in 2021.

‘The local charity for homeless people, the Daylight Centre, spends £650 per head per homeless person per year. Think what that charity could do with £200,000! It would be able to provide care for over 300 British citizens. There are also veterans’ charities in the constituency struggling to care of soldiers who risked life and limb for the country. Instead of the money going to them, the Council was prepared to blow it on housing maybe 4 migrants, after forcing out of their home two elderly British citizens. Disgraceful.’

The Council is run by the Tories – for all their chat about championing local issues both the Tories and Labour are asleep about the damage being wrought on Wellingborough by a failed council and a complete failure to police our territorial waters. Heads should roll and the Saunders should be compensated!

‘The only party capable of preventing the dystopia into which our country is sinking is Reform UK – the Tories and Labour have lost the plot.’

Jason Smithers, Leader of North Northamptonshire Council, told MailOnline in a statement: ‘North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) is working with owners of long-term empty properties to bring their property back into use. Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) are not utilised to “oust” current owners from their properties, they are a tool used as a very last resort to bring empty properties, which are a valuable and much need housing resource, back into use.

‘The “empty property initiative letters” were sent out in a bid to assist empty property owners to bring their property back into use, and on the whole, the support from NNC was gratefully received. Since NNC formed in 2021, no properties have been purchased by CPO. This is a mechanism of last resort to bring problematic, long term empty properties back into use.

‘Unfortunately, in this case, records held by NNC were outdated, and the letter was incorrectly sent to a property which was occupied. For this I am very sorry for causing any undue distress and worry.’

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“Dune: Part Two” Strikes A Balance Of Solemnity And Excitement, Amplifying The Saga’s Epic Journey

Dune: Part Two

‘Dune: Part Two’

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebeca Fergusson, Javier Bardem

Genre: Science fiction. USA, 2024

Runtime: 166 minutes

Release date: March 1

Frank Herbert’s original novel presents a formidable challenge for readers, not due to its literary style, but rather the intricate web of names, languages, planets, dynasties, and character relationships it entails. Denis Villeneuve’s cinematic adaptation of the first half of the book, while visually stunning, maintained the solemnity and gravity of the source material, making it a demanding viewing experience with its 155-minute runtime dominated by browns, grays, and a lack of liveliness.

Despite the complexities, Herbert’s book has garnered a dedicated following spanning multiple generations, and Villeneuve’s adaptation, surpassing previous attempts, resonated with audiences, critics, and the Academy, grossing over $400 million worldwide and earning six Oscars out of 10 nominations. Against this backdrop, “Dune: Part Two” emerges, maintaining the cinematic flavor and sumptuous tone of its predecessor.

Adult science fiction often exudes grandeur and gravitas, and “Dune: Part Two” is no exception, with its nearly three-hour runtime sustained by the visual mastery of director Denis Villeneuve, known for his work on acclaimed films like “Sicario,” “Prisoners,” and “Enemy.” The stellar cast exudes charisma, complemented by Hans Zimmer’s evocative soundtrack, which fills the theater with palpable intensity. Amidst the weighty political and religious themes, occasional moments of levity, notably from Javier Bardem’s character, offer brief respites from the film’s otherwise serious tone.

Timothée Chalamet, in 'Dune: Part Two.'
Timothée Chalamet, in ‘Dune: Part Two.’

Despite Villeneuve’s technical and artistic prowess, “Dune” falls short of creating enduring cinematic images, reminiscent of his previous works like “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049.” While some sequences lack memorable shots due to pacing issues in editing, others are hindered by digital effects, such as the overcrowded coliseum scene featuring Austin Butler’s character. However, the film still captures the essence of Herbert’s writing, with powerful quotes like “The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.”

Timothée Chalamet’s portrayal of Paul Atreides draws intriguing parallels to Jesus, particularly in his journey through the desert trials, echoing Christ’s temptation by the Devil. The depiction of the Fremen and their struggle on Arrakis evokes comparisons to oppressed peoples throughout history, resonating with contemporary conflicts like Gaza.

Despite being somewhat austere, “Dune: Part Two” remains a compelling and engaging sequel, signaling Villeneuve’s commitment to adapting Herbert’s novels for future generations. As the series progresses, exploring themes of power dynamics, it mirrors present-day geopolitical tensions in the Middle East.


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Discovering The Top Destinations In Europe For 2024

The Top Destinations To Visit In Europe 2024

The Voice Of EU | Welcome to our comprehensive guide to the most exciting European destinations to visit in 2024. Delve into a curated selection of countries, regions, cities, and neighborhoods that promise unique experiences, curated by our expert editors at Condé Nast Traveller UK and Spain.

From hidden gems to emerging hotspots, here’s where to focus your travel plans for the year ahead:

Antwerp, Belgium

Discover intriguing new architecture and a collection of chic hotel openings in Antwerp. Experience the vibrant culinary scene with a visit to renowned Michelin-starred restaurants like The Jane, while enjoying rustic dishes at the sleek new bar, Untitled. Afterward, unwind at August or Hotel Julien for a serene retreat in the heart of the city.

Asturias, Spain

Immerse yourself in eco-focused luxury tourism amidst the breathtaking landscapes of Asturias. Explore UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and rejuvenated routes like the Camino Primitivo, followed by a stay at unique properties such as Solo Palacio and PuebloAstur Eco-Resort. Indulge in the region’s “landscape cuisine” and emerging culinary movement while experiencing cultural events in Oviedo, the gastronomic capital.

Biarritz, France

Experience the revival of the surf town of Biarritz, nestled in the French Basque Country. Stay at artfully restored Belle Époque hotels like Regina Biarritz and Hôtel du Palais, and savor the vibrant Basque culinary scene. Explore sun-soaked beaches, chic boutiques, and cultural hotspots, making Biarritz a must-visit destination for sophisticated travelers.

Bodø, Norway

Embark on a journey of stargazing and natural wonders in Bodø, Norway. As the European Capital of Culture for 2024, Bodø offers a diverse arts program and spectacular landscapes, including the ethereal Lofoten Islands. Stay at luxurious accommodations like The Wood Hotel or embrace nature with GlampNord, all while experiencing the region’s burgeoning food scene.

Budapest, Hungary

Celebrate the 150th anniversary of Budapest with a blend of old-world charm and modern innovation. Explore the city’s architectural wonders, vibrant nightlife, and historic attractions like the Chain Bridge. Stay at iconic properties such as W Budapest and Dorothea Hotel, and experience the city’s cultural renaissance with musical events and new builds like the House of Music Hungary.

Carlsberg City District, Denmark

Immerse yourself in creative newness at the Carlsberg City District in Copenhagen. Explore a vibrant hub of restaurants, shops, and design houses amid repurposed brewery buildings. Indulge in culinary delights at establishments like Coffee Collective and Aamanns, while experiencing the district’s cultural revival with interactive attractions and summer parties.

Costa de Prata, Portugal

Escape to the bohemian charm of Costa de Prata, Portugal’s Silver Coast. Experience the quiet coastal beauty of Ericeira and Nazaré, with new luxury hotels like Aethos and Ohai Nazaré. Explore historic towns like Obidos and Aveiro, indulging in local delicacies and cultural experiences, making Costa de Prata a hidden gem for discerning travelers.

Cyclades, Greece

Embark on a salty-air island-hopping adventure in the Cyclades, Greece’s dazzling blue archipelago. With new flights and smart stays like Santo Pure and Kalesma Mykonos, explore iconic destinations like Mykonos, Santorini, and Paros with unparalleled luxury. Experience the region’s vibrant atmosphere, thrilling beach clubs, and world-class hospitality, creating unforgettable memories in the Greek islands.

Kosovo

Discover pristine countryside and adventurous trails in Kosovo, Europe’s newest country. Explore hiking and biking routes like the Trans Dinarica cycling route, and experience the region’s unique Sámi heritage and outdoor activities. Stay at charming accommodations like Ujëvara e Drinit Resort and Ariu, indulging in traditional Kosovar cuisine and warm hospitality.

Mallorca, Spain

Experience the unrivaled luxury of Mallorca with an array of exciting new hotels across the island. Stay at exclusive properties like Son Bunyola and Ikos Porto Petro, indulging in low-key luxury and exceptional service.

READ: The True Cost Of Living In Madrid, Spain: A Comprehensive Guide & Neighborhoods

Explore the island’s natural beauty, cultural attractions, and culinary delights, making Mallorca, Spain a timeless destination for discerning travelers.

Northern Italy

Embark on next-level cycling adventures and motorsports experiences in Northern Italy. Witness the historic stages of the Tour de France in Florence, Rimini, and Turin, while exploring gastronomic heritage and scenic landscapes. Stay at luxury accommodations like Middleton Lodge and experience slow travel with new railway routes and cultural events, making Northern Italy a paradise for sports enthusiasts and culture seekers.

Yorkshire, UK

Indulge in a foodie revolution amidst the enchanting landscapes of Yorkshire, UK. Experience star chefs and Michelin-starred restaurants like The Abbey Inn and Mýse, offering creative culinary experiences and luxurious accommodations. Explore Yorkshire’s natural wonders, cultural events, and emerging culinary scene, creating a bewitching travel experience in 2024.

Destinations & Experience

With an array of exciting destinations and experiences to explore, Europe beckons travelers with its rich history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes. Whether you seek adventure, luxury, or cultural immersion, the best places to go in Europe in 2024 promise unforgettable memories and endless discovery. Start planning your European adventure today and embark on a journey of a lifetime.


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— By Elisa Ferragni | Team VoiceOfEU.com Digital

— Contact Us: Info@VoiceOfEU.com

— Anonymous News Submissions: Press@VoiceOfEU.com

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