Construction workers are warned to prepare for leaner times

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  • <B>Going up:</B> Work on the new hospital is one of the last major construction projects underway in Bermuda. Construction workers have been urged to prepare for leaner times ahead.

    Going up: Work on the new hospital is one of the last major construction projects underway in Bermuda. Construction workers have been urged to prepare for leaner times ahead.


Health Minister Zane DeSilva yesterday urged construction workers to start preparing for potentially even leaner times with the hospital redevelopment project entering its latter stages.

The Minister — the president of Island Construction — also called for firms to be “good corporate citizens” by ensuring as many Bermudians as possible are kept in work during the recession.

Meanwhile yesterday, concrete suppliers SAL, one of the chief beneficiaries of the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital redevelopment, said it is reviewing the way it does business in the light of “the most severe economic challenges in recent memory”.

And Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards said Government’s lack of leadership and inability to inspire confidence is partly responsible for the construction industry’s woes.

All were reacting to Greymane Contracting president Alex DeCouto’s claims many small and middle-sized firms are facing a scrap for survival while a handful of elite companies enjoy rich pickings of Bermuda’s dwindling number of construction jobs.

Many fear the industry will suffer even more as the hospital and Waterloo House projects, which have kept many Bermudians employed, wind down in coming months.

Yesterday, Mr DeSilva said half of construction workers at the hospital site are Bermudian, adding: “More job sites, such as the new hospital, naturally equal more employment opportunities which, in turn, equals more need for workers and therefore lessens the chance that construction workers will be without work.”

Asked for his advice for construction workers as the project comes to an end, Mr DeSilva told The Royal Gazette: “I would tell workers to start planning for that future in the present.

“My tips would be to ensure they are on time for work, be as productive as possible, show your employer how valuable you are through demonstrations of your hard work and skills and learn as much as you can from others in order to become a valuable asset to your employer.

“Also, never underestimate the importance of saving. We don't know what the future holds so look after your finances now.

“For example, look at inexpensive ways to spend time with family — little comes without sacrifice. Build a nest egg as quickly as possible because, if that rainy day comes, you will be glad you saved.”

Turning to construction firms, he said: “Until more work is available to tender I would suggest that firms endeavour to run their companies as effectively and efficiently as possible while, at the same time, striving to be good corporate citizens with regards to keeping Bermudians employed.”

Last November, SAL broke an Island record when nearly 15,000 cubic feet of its concrete was poured in a single day on the hospital redevelopment.

Yesterday, chief financial officer Vance Campbell said the company plans to continue its ready-mix concrete division well into the future.

But he continued: “Historically, the construction industry has experienced periods of growth followed by periods of downturn.

“This current downturn, which is a reflection of the economic challenges facing Bermuda and the rest of the world, has been the most severe in recent memory.

“As a major supplier to this industry we have also seen our business expand and contract over the years in accordance with this cyclical nature.

“Like most companies during these challenging times, whether related to the construction industry or not, we are reviewing costs and the way we do business in order to successfully meet these challenges.

“For the construction industry to return to a more vibrant state, projects of all sizes are required so that the small, the medium and the large contractors can all benefit.

“While we remain pragmatic in dealing with the present, we are hopeful that the turnaround happens sooner rather than later.”

The OBA’s Mr Richards said: “We have a big problem in Bermuda. Our economy is underperforming. Almost everybody you can think of, our trading partners, except the UK, we are underperforming all of them. We are underperforming other island economies.

“Our situation requires bold and decisive leadership. We are not getting it.

“The plea we heard from the gentleman in the construction industry [Mr DeCouto] is just another example that the country is in need of a change of leadership.

“We need the kind of leadership that would use optimism, have a plan to change the trajectory of this economy and to revive the principles of this country: international business, tourism and the construction industry, all of which have exhibited negative trends.”

Mr Richards said he was not yet able to disclose all One Bermuda Alliance’s ideas, but said its proposal for tax breaks for job creators would offer incentives to potential investors.

“It requires confidence, and the only way you are going to have confidence is to have a different Government,” he said.

“We are woefully lacking in both optimism and confidence in Bermuda. Quite frankly, a lot of business decisions are being put on hold pending this election. We need to get on with it.”

Mr DeCouto had called for Government to take risks to reignite the tourism industry, which would lead to more construction jobs.

Mr Richards said: “Bermuda is in need of redevelopment on a number of fronts. We think we have policies where we will encourage them to happen. But not with Government money. The idea of increasing debt for buildings is not what we support.

“We are interested in stimulating private sector investment. People are looking for a return on their investment and want to be sure that their Government is going to be run properly and they will get a return on their investment.”

In Wednesday’s Royal Gazette, Pembroke South East MP Ashfield DeVent claimed growing numbers of Bermudians are upset construction jobs are going to lower paid foreigners.

Mr DeSilva responded to that point yesterday, saying BCM McAlpine, which is behind the hospital redevelopment, “is very aware of the employment situation in Bermuda”.

“They have worked very closely with Economy Minister Patrice Minors and the Immigration Department to provide employment opportunities for Bermudians whenever and wherever they can at the hospital and are to be commended for this,” he said.

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Published Aug 23, 2012 at 1:43 pm (Updated Aug 23, 2012 at 1:42 pm)

Construction workers are warned to prepare for leaner times

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