Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 16th 2014 Contents BG6 | NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JANUARY 2014 • WEEK THREE
Ashortage of labour and the
boom and bust cycle of
the economy have not
had a positive effect on
the construction indus-
In fact, a labour shortage could have an
impact on the price of labour, said Christopher
Garcia, president of the T&T Contractor s
"The industry is faced with a critical shortage
of labour. A lot of that has to do with gov-
ernment programmes like CEPEP and URP.
There is nothing wrong with them, but do we
get value for money?. When there is a con-
struction project with box drains being built,
this is good. But when you have CEPEP workers
working half day and still collecting a full day s
wage, this does not do anything for productivity
and the industry suffers," he said.
Garcia said the construction industry
involves "hard work."
"You work all week and sometimes on Sat-
urdays and there is a reluctance to recruit peo-
ple to work," he said.
He said a skilled labourer could attract
between $200 and $250 a day, while a skilled
tradesman, like a mason, could attract $350
in an eight hour day.
"The rates vary depending on if you are
around Port-of-Spain or if you are in South.
The problem really is to get people to work
and the attraction for easy money in the make
work programmes has an effect on the indus-
He said this has caused wage labour to go
up over the last few years.
"This is because it is hard to get skilled
workers. The skilled workers demand top dol-
lars and a lot of times, they prefer to stay
home and not work than to accept lower
Garcia spoke to the Business Guardian last
Thursday at his office, CG Construction Serv-
ices, Jerningham Place, Belmont.
Boom and rising prices
He said "serious contractors" do not wel-
come the idea of a "boom" as rising demand
and scarcity lead to higher prices.
"With a boom, there is accelerated activity
that results in higher wages because there is
a greater demand for a scarce resource, which
is labour. Material prices go up, you find sup-
pliers of aggregate, concrete blocks, a lot of
them are put under pressure and results in
higher prices. In a lot of the booms we have
seen over the years, busts have followed those
He cited some unfinished projects from the
"The Government Campus and Waterfront
were built during boom times and the buildings
are still standing unoccupied and have not
been outfitted as yet. In my view, the approach
to the industry has to be one that is measured
and sustainable. It is better we had a measured
method of constant work over time than just
throw everything at the industry."
He said a boom puts "pressure" on the
industry s human resources.
"They put the architects, engineers, quantity
surveyors under pressure because there is so
much work. Sometimes the quality of work
comes under pressure."
He said there is a lack of experienced pro-
fessionals in the construction industry and
they are suffering because of the boom and
He gave the example of a senior architect
who in 2010 had 23 employs, but now only
"A lot of them left to go into other areas.
It is sad because this is one of the most expe-
rienced architectural firms in the country. If
we enter a boom, they have to go back out
there and get back some of this staff."
Garcia is uncertain there will be increased
construction this year.
"In 2013, what we did see was endless proj-
ects going to tender and a lot of them were
on the design and construct model. A signif-
icant amount of them were cancelled. There
is a tendency now to abandon the traditional
procurement mechanism, where an agency
will hire an architect or engineer, they will
produce a design, they go out and bid the job.
This model is good for building a highway or
power plant, but not smaller projects, like a
police station. It takes hundreds of thousands
of dollars to put out a bid and you waste that
money and time if you do not get it at the
He said there are alternatives to the design
and construct models in Europe.
"So if they are building a military base, they
will short list four contractors, and give them
the brief, and that will have fees attached. So
these contractors will have their architects and
engineers, and come up with four designs and
submit them. The design fees are spread over
those four companies, it may not cover the
entire cost of the bid, but at least you are not
out of pocket by hundreds of thousands of
Garcia predicts likely increased construction
activity this year will not fare any better than
it did the last time for the industry.
"This is caused by make-work programmes
and the inability to attract labour."
2015: An election year
Bindra Maharaj, owner of Infinity Distrib-
utors, said prices of construction materials
have gone up over the last two years.
Infinity Distributors sells hardware material
wholesale as well as does contracting work
with the Housing Development Corporation
(HDC), such as building new houses and reme-
"Cement prices have gone up and when it
goes up, all other prices go up, like the price
of tiles, blocks, gravel and sand," he said.
Maharaj said there will be an increase of
construction activity since this year leading
into the 2015 general election.
Steel (1/2 inch/20ft) $34.95
Skilled labourer per day: $200/$250 $350
Continued on Page 7
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