Seasonal workers

Wentworth By The Sea Country Club in Rye hires several landscapers from Mexico through the H-2B visa program to fill jobs for the golf season. This year, the golf course was unable to secure visas for eight foreign workers to return.

Most people look forward to summer, but finding enough seasonal workers is no picnic for businesses.

Bob Diodati said he was “devastated” to miss out on getting visas for eight foreign workers to return to the Wentworth by the Sea Country Club in Rye this summer.

“It’s a heart attack every year,” said Diodati, its vice president and general manager.

The feds recently said they would allocate an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for this year, but only for returning foreign workers.

“If we don’t get the (28) people from the H-2B visas, it’s going to be a difficult year,” said Chris Diego, managing partner for the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa in Whitefield.

Every year, many businesses that need a heavy concentration of summer help hire foreign workers.

New Hampshire Employment Security said it doesn’t have exact figures on how many foreign workers came to the state on such visas, but there were 859 job postings tied to such visas last year and 658 so far this year.

The federal government had allocated 33,000 such visas for summer work before announcing recently it would permit another 30,000 H-2B visas.

“Given the nationwide competition, the number will be measured merely in the low hundreds, maybe only in the dozens” for Granite State businesses, said Tom Hildreth, a director at the McLane Middleton law firm in Manchester who writes and speaks extensively on U.S. immigration laws.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who pushed the Trump administration to approve more visas, in a statement said, “I’m glad the administration heeded my warning about the real threats to Granite State seasonal businesses who could face a serious shortfall in their workforce unless more visas are made available.”

Costly alternative

The state’s tight labor market has made foreign workers more important for some this year.

“If there were available U.S. workers to fill these positions, companies would not be resorting to temporary foreign workers under the H-2B program,” Hildreth said. “Relying on H-2B workers is unpredictable and expensive. The annual cap is frequently reached after employers have gone to the effort and expense of applications and recruitment.

“It is much less costly and uncertain to hire workers from citizens and permanent residents already in the U.S.,” Hildreth said.

Diego said he would love North Country residents to fill the jobs for housekeepers, servers and food workers but can’t find enough job candidates.

“The real solution for our employment needs are for people who live around here,” he said. “From there, you’re forced into foreign workers.”

Jim Moreau, president of the New Hampshire Landscape Association, said he has heard from several landscaping firms.

“Some of the landscaping companies didn’t get their visas on their first round,” he said. Some companies have been bringing back the same foreign workers for as many as 15 years.

“Hopefully, they’ll be able to get their help,” Moreau said.

As for finding New Hampshire residents to fill positions, Moreau said: “Without any hesitation, there is no labor force out there. None, zero.”

Diodati said the business looked into hiring an agency to supply workers that don’t need visas, “but we spent so much effort to train our returning workers,” including some who have been coming for a half-dozen years.

He said six of the eight returning workers from Mexico would serve as greenskeepers with two as trained chefs for banquet facilities. If they don’t return, he will have to make do with the employees he has picking up more duties.

“I don’t know why it is such a fight every year,” Diodati said.