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Construction workers vent their frustrations

Frustrations ran high last night at a meeting organised for construction workers at the Bermuda Industrial Union where several masons, carpenters and steel workers charged that they have been blacklisted in their own country.

It was the first time executive members of the local Construction Association met with workers in the industry in a meeting organised by BIU Chief Organiser George Scott.

Construction Association President Charles Dunstan and Vice President Kennedy Wainwright were on hand to hear firsthand the views of the workers in the industry with M&M Construction representative Mike McLean.

Several workers expressed frustration that they were unable to find work, some for quite some time.

And several workers were outraged at their perception that when they look around the job sites in Bermuda, black Bermudians were virtually non-existent.

One man received a round of applause when he accused the Construction Association of dropping the ball by not leading the way on the issue of certification.

“Every last man in this place are skilled, abled people who don’t mind getting certified only to see foreign workers employed when they are not qualified. You have not been leaders of certification, you have not!”

Another man questioned the pay scale for Bermudians as opposed to non-Bermudians.

He noted that in more cases than not, foreign workers are supplemented with accommodations and transportation for a cheaper rate of pay while Bermudians are expected to settle for the same rate without the same benefits.

“We shouldn’t have carpenters trying to find a job pot washing,” he said. “We have men here who have been working in the industry for 30 to 40 years who are being turned away from jobs because he doesn’t have certification.”

As a result he said: “We are unable to feed our families because we are being turned away despite our skills because we don’t have that once piece of paper.

“At the same time we’re travelling around the island and we see jobs going on with people from other places and we’re looking at what they’re doing and we know we can do that.

“Those guys who lay block, that’s all they do, while we as masons lay block, we plaster, we hang doors and put in windows if necessary because we have the skills.

“It’s going to take a few years for certification to be fully implemented, so are you saying to us for the next couple of years we have to sit on the sidelines and watch people from other countries get paid to work while we get nothing?

“How long do we have to wait on the sidelines in our own country? This is the foundation of our issue,” he said. “This is home for us and I don’t understand, but to me it seems like this is just another stumbling block, another way to hold us back instead of moving on with our lives with the ability to pay our way.

“How long do we remain unable to pay our bills while we watch others work in our country, that’s key.”

He noted that M&M Construction representative Mike McLean said work is on the way in the form of the proposed Par-la-Ville Hotel.

But he said that job is down the line and even when it begins, not all Bermudian workers in the industry will be employed on that site.

In the interim he said: “You cannot quantify what we are capable of if we are not working, we have to be on the job to do that.

“We appreciate what you’re trying to do but I have to tell you we’re not working and we can’t sit around for another two or three years waiting for this paperwork to be in order.”

Mr Dunstan noted that when the Association did a verbal masonry assessment last year, “out of 25 men, six top grade masons were identified, and out of that six at least five had work within the month”.

But he was questioned about the remaining 19 who did not get work after that assessment.

The meeting extended beyond the allocated time but at the end of the meeting Mr Scott said he was encouraged by the fact that the Construction Association representatives were there.

Moving forward he said: “We pledged to go forward together in making the construction industry one where management and workers work together.”

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Published April 26, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 26, 2013 at 7:52 am)

Construction workers vent their frustrations

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