Burt Construction faces winding up petition after three decades in business
Junior Masons 9
Skilled Labourers 61
Other Construction Occupations 243
*Other Construction Occupations include: Electricians, Plumbers, Painters, Machine Operators, Steel Erectors, Carpenters, Drywallers, Welders, Jr. Mechanics, Tilers, Project Managers, Foremen’s, Land Surveyor, Rebar Fitters, and Roofers.
Source: Dept. Labour & Training
Longtime building contractor Burt Construction Ltd is the latest company to fall victim to the Island’s economic downturn.
The construction industry has been especially hard hit, going from boom to near bust in the last five years and Construction Association of Bermuda president Charles Dunstan warned yesterday that it will likely get worse — more than 550 workers in the construction industry are now registered with the Department of Labour and Training as unemployed.
A petition to wind up Burt Construction, in business some 30 years, was filed with the Supreme Court and at a hearing last Friday creditors were urged to make their case for any money owed. At the hearing, the Supreme Court made an order to wind up Burt Construction and appoint Kenneth Krys and Patrick McPhee as joint provisional liquidators.
Burt Construction principal Gerald Burt could not be reached for comment.
At its height, his company employed more than 20 staff and worked on residential and commercial projects, including Harbour View Village condos at Southside. As part of their community giving Mr Burt and son, Senator David Burt, had adopted Northlands Primary School.
Paterson’s Contracting, another large local construction firm, has also felt the effects of the recession. The firm laid off 20 employees this year inclusive of five term-limit work permit holders. Owner Kevin Petty blamed “lack of work and lower profit margins with increased costs”.
Mr Dunstan said there were a number of smaller firms too who have gone out of business that we haven’t heard about.
“We have no data on how many have gone out of business, but I know there are companies quietly discontinuing active trading, while they seek other employment,” Mr Dunstan said.
“If a job turns up, they will try to jump back in, but that can be difficult if you’ve let your crew go. There are also rumours of smaller firms merging to form a more substantial company, while they streamline their newly combined crews; the net effect being lost jobs.”
More than 100 of the 556 registered unemployed in the industry are seasoned masons.
Mr Dunstan said the Construction Association, with the support of the Department of Labour & Training and NTB, is now conducting interviews with these masons to assess their level of knowledge and hopefully match them up with any potential employment opportunities.
But Mr Dunstan said there is “no current incentive to build housing, as there are less people on the Island” and little incentive as well for new commercial space as companies downsize, or leave the Island.
“Unless something dramatic happens to the economy, whereby developers can see new incentives to spend their money in Bermuda, the effects on local construction companies are bound to continue,” Mr Dunstan said.
“As new construction starts for major commercial projects continues to decline, the larger construction firms are forced to become more competitive for smaller renovation work and residential projects. This is making life difficult for some of the smaller firms, and driving some small firm owners to seek alternate employment.”
He noted that the result of the downturn in the industry meant that “the larger firms are now able to find and hire tradesmen with good experience, knowledge, work ethic and reliability; people who have experience at running jobs and businesses, but have become frustrated with the lack of work, and who make great employees”.
And, he said: “The consumer who does want to build has a larger, and often more professional, pool of construction firms vying for their work from which to choose. This is making the market more competitive than ever, with some firms pricing work at cost just to keep their good people employed.“
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