Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 19th 2014 Contents BG4 NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JUNE 2014 • WEEK THREE
The labour market in T&T is in "cri-
sis" over people s unrealistic expec-
tations of salary levels, said Mikey
Joseph, president of the T&T Con-
"We have a crisis of expectation. Everyone
believes they should be working for energy
sector wages. Construction is hard work. We
have been building many energy plants and
these plants have been priced internationally
using US dollar wages for their skilled people.
In the United States, certain types of the min-
imum wage jobs are US$18 an hour. So when
a welder says he is not working for less than
TT$60 an hour, to locals, that is expensive.
So every other welder in T&T believes he
should get that too, which the local construc-
tion sector cannot afford," Joseph told the
Business Guardian last Saturday by phone.
He said a welder at the liquefied natural
gas-producing Atlantic can be paid $80 an
hour because its product prices are determined
on the international markets.
"They are making goods to export at an
international price in US dollars. Working in
different parts of the economy is different.
Everyone feels they should work for energy
sector wages," he said.
He said a situation has arisen where skilled
people, after having worked in the energy sec-
tor, refuse to work in lower paying jobs.
"So after the energy sector, they migrate to
other countries. I believe we have lost about
300 welders to Alberta, Canada, over the last
year. We are losing experienced people," he
Joseph spoke about the need for training to
solve this dilemma.
"This is one of the things the membership
voiced their concern over in terms of skills
training and skills development. We still have
a massive shortfall in terms of competent
trades people in some areas," he said.
Joseph said the Government should raise
the productive capacity of the country and let
people work hard instead of promising "high
"We need to get rid of CEPEP and MUST
and other programmes that are not geared
towards developing the labour pool we have,"
Joseph was elected as president on the May
14, having previously served in that capacity
between 2004 and 2011.
"Some members asked me to return as they
found that the organisation was not vibrant
in terms of national issues at the forefront.
Being part of the board, I realised that we
need to step up our game, and I accepted the
nomination," he said.
Joseph said not much has changed with
regard to the use of foreign contractors.
"There is the continued use of Chinese con-
tractors and all major projects within the last
four years. If you look at the major projects,
they are still going the way of the Chinese.
They are talking of building two ports in La
Brea, and I think the Chinese may be carded
for both. Then we have some work going to
locals, like the water treatment plant at Sea
Lots, but the concern there is the procurement
process," he said.
He said construction of the COSTATT build-
ing in Chaguanas has been awarded to NH
International (Caribbean) Ltd, but the size of
contracts allocated to locals is much smaller
than those granted to foreign firms.
"We need to look at how they are being
rolled out. Yes, they are going to get some
work out to locals, but when you look at the
value of the work, that COSTATT building is
about $181 million, when you look at the value
of the port and the Children s Hospital, it is
$0.5 billion, the Aquatic Centre is another
$0.5 billion. Then there is UWI Debe campus,
so it means most of the big projects are going
to the Chinese."
He argued that the performance of the Chi-
nese contractors is "way below par."
"We are better than the Chinese contractors.
In terms of how we measure to companies
like Vinci Construction - and these are among
the largest firms in the world - we still measure
up fairly well. Go back to the Uff Commission
of Enquiry, which stated that there is no major
difference between the local and foreign con-
tractors and this is from a standpoint of quality,"
Joseph said in his opinion, Caribbean leaders,
including those in T&T, have no respect for
local labour forces and so prefer outsiders.
"They have no confidence in themselves
and the people that are governing," he said.
He said laws governing banks and projects
need to be amended when it comes to the
private public partnership (PPP) model.
"Local banks cannot hold property or invest
in property in the sense that there is the PPP
where you come together with a financing
team, the bank also becomes part of that team
and the bank actually holds the project until
the Government repays it. You build the build-
ing and lease it back to the Government over
a 20-year, 30-year period. The laws need to
be amended to allow the banks to hold these
forms of instruments. If the bank does a 30-
year proposal at three per cent interest, people
would be encouraged by that. So the laws
needs to be changed to allow the banks to do
more," he said.
Joseph said part of the problem with the
availability of foreign exchange has to with
"We import so much, we even import our
own food. So when you look at the highway
'Unrealistic' for construction workers
to expect energy sector pay
Continued on Page 5
Mikey Joseph, president, T&T Contractors Association. In the
background is a hotel tower being constructed along
Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, by the owners of the Radisson
Trinidad. PHOTO: ROBERTO CODALLO
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