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Haitians may soon take up local jobs

Haitians may soon take up local jobs


As if the cement shortage were not enough, the scarcity of workers is causing another challenge to the local construction industry.

Carpenters, masons, plumbers and especially heavy equipment operators are in great demand.

This was confirmed by some local contractors, who may soon resort to importing overseas labour in order to meet the demands of a thriving construction sector.{{more}}

According to one local contractor, Mike Gibson of Gibson Construction, the shortage of quality workers is becoming a concern.

Gibson lamented that there are too few youngsters getting involved in the construction industry.

“Over the years we were having the problem with tradesmen migrating to other countries, but we had a good amount of replacements, but now there is a shortage and there is still that exodus of workmen,” Gibson expressed.

The construction manager said while there is growth in the sector, fewer workers are getting involved in the field of construction.

Gibson said a group of contractors have thrown out the idea to Government to seek supplementary workers from outside St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

He said the importation of skilled workmen is currently being looked at by both Government and local contractors as a remedy for the shortage in the industry.

“I think they (Government) were looking at importing skilled labourers from Haiti as an option, because we have a number of outstanding projects here which have to be completed before the World Cup Cricket 2007 deadline,” Gibson said.

While workers from Haiti might be a quick fix option for the worker shortage, this country could be faced with a brain drain in key areas when the Caribbean Single Market comes into effect. Some analysts suggest that the shortage of young persons in the construction industry might be a harbinger of a more widespread labour shortage.

Only last month, this country’s Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves commented on the issue, while addressing the signing ceremony of the Cross Country Road where some $4.7 million was set aside for construction of the second phase of the project. Dr. Gonsalves cited that both the construction and agriculture sectors were similarly hit by the shortage of manpower and made plea for more young people to get involved in the construction industry.

“We can’t have works held up because we don’t have labour,” Dr. Gonsalves said.

But, despite calls from both Government officials and construction managers, skilled workers are blaming low wages as a reason for the shortage in this field of work.

One would-be employee expressed the view that contractors must try and raise wages before contemplating luring workers to their sites.

Gibson is, however, of the opinion that once skilled workers turn up to construction sites they can command a salary.

“It’s not a problem with wages, once someone is skilled they can command a salary,” Gibson said.