Job a labour of love for dedicated workers
Tempers can flare while building in the blistering sun, but the Island’s construction workers are still finding reasons to love what they do and appreciate the job they have.
It’s a long day for the team at BCM McAlpine Construction, who are currently busy at the Belvedere Residences building site on Pitts Bay Road in a project for West Hamilton Holdings.
They begin at 7.30am with a planning meeting and end late in the afternoon after several hours of heavy lifting in the summer heat.
But for the firm’s head banksman and crane operator, Malcolm Martin, 31, it’s a labour of love — and also one that has brought career opportunities.
“I’ve been working for 12 years with BCM and have been lucky to have a consistent job in the industry,” Mr Martin said.
“I do whatever it takes to get the job done, I love what I do. There isn’t many young guys out here right now, whether it’s because of lack of experience or they just prefer something else but the ones that are out here work hard.
“BCM has sent me to crane school abroad in Arizona, and to Bermuda College for a certification in carpentry, and they brought in a guy to teach banking and rigging. They’ve opened a lot of avenues and opportunities for me and I’m appreciative. That’s why I come to work every day.”
Junior mason Donald Simmons, 59, is a veteran of 25 years — and the enjoyment has not worn off yet.
“My everyday job is wonderful,” Mr Simmons said. “Whether it’s rain or shine I’m here and I do what’s required to get the job done in the safest way. I definitely love what I do. Some days there’s always some challenge but you need to get the job done no matter how hard or difficult it may seem at first.”
Many would argue that, in recent times, construction workers have seen more rain than shine. The number of people employed in the industry is currently estimated at 1,800, the lowest figure for 20 years. This comes after just $116 million worth of work was put in place last year, down from $190 million in 2012.
Mr Simmons said: “I feel that the recession is a cause for unemployment in the industry — it has a global effect. In Bermuda we are going through this small crunch but it’s understandable.
“It will definitely pick up in the next two years or so and provide a few areas for the young people to come in because I’ll soon retire.”
Tony Harris, a foreman in training, has six men working under him at the Belvedere Residences project.
His role includes helping them get block, cleaning the site and making sure each day has a safe working environment.
In the July sun, it’s hot work, but Mr Harris said: “If you think it’s hot right here, right now my workers are in the basement level and the heat is really generating from the mortar.
“The heat really doesn’t bother me every day, it’s more the cold and the rain I don’t like. I can tolerate the heat.
“It’s exciting but it can be frustrating as well. When the heat is on tempers flare but it hasn’t really been too bad here being that it isn’t a big site and the guys get to know how other guys work.
“I think unemployment is a lot better today than it was when the hospital job finished. Now I’ve talked to about 20 guys who I’ve worked with at the hospital who were unemployed then that have work now.
“I can say that it’s improved a slight bit but not as much as some people would like to see it.”
Gail Marshall, labour superintendent at BCM McAlpine, said: “These boys here are like my children, everybody generally gets along very well.
“There are small disagreements but it’s nothing that cannot be resolved.”
The much-publicised plight of the industry has not kept young people from getting involved, Ms Marshall said.
“Our summer student, Joshua Correia, 16, is here for another two to three weeks learning the ropes,” she said. “He’s doing really good but I think working here may entice him to stay in school for a little while longer.
“It’s a hard job, it’s heavy work. If you do come out here it teaches you to learn so you can move up and become a supervisor and get away from the heavy work.
“You’ll find that a good [amount] of kids are interested in construction.”