As Nova Scotia grapples with yet another wave of COVID-19, people in the construction industry say that workforce is losing weight quickly and construction projects are increasingly difficult to complete.
“We were pretty hard hit,” said Nick Rudnicki, CEO of RSI Projects. “Some of our crew members have said that they are uncomfortable coming to work.”
According to its website, Halifax-based RSI projects “focus on renovating residential and commercial buildings, building new homes, and working closely with clients and architects to make the process as smooth and efficient as possible.”
Rudnicki said that some craftsmen, plumbers and electricians, for example, do not work in houses with residents, “so renovation work does not take place at all”.
Some employees are concerned about higher caseloads and the inability to maintain physical distance on a construction site.
Fewer workers on the construction site
Rudnicki said projects are now taking longer than they were a month ago. Of the more than 15 employees on a construction site, you only have two left.
“Part of a job that typically lasts a week now takes a month as capacity decreases, productivity decreases and constraints have to be met,” he said.
Construction workers are exempt from the current collection limits. But Rudnicki said physical distancing is not possible for workers in many cases, so some have chosen to stay away.
Safety is a priority, but you can generate income
He said safety is a priority, but the company’s revenues are currently suffering.
“This current slowdown and last year’s slowdown are cratery to us,” he said. “Our overhead dwarfs revenue and we lose money during that period.”
Duncan Williams, president and CEO of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia, said productivity in the industry has definitely declined recently.
“We hear that because of the security measures we now have to go through, productivity is slowing down. Things are slowing down,” he said. “There’s no question about that. Materials and supplies are scarce.”
Ducan Williams, president and CEO of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia, says the industry needs more contractors right now. (CBC / Rob Short)
While the industry is having a tough time financially, the work continues, according to Williams. If physical distancing is not an option, Williams says other measures such as using double masks or plexiglass can be used.
“Adapting and overcoming project problems is what the industry does,” he said.
Williams said there is also an increased demand for contractors right now, especially residential work, and the demand is exceeding the number of people available to do the jobs.
“Halifax’s population is growing pretty fast because people are moving here to Nova Scotia, so we’re seeing the demand for commercial and residential real estate increasing,” he said.
People who are leaving the industry
Rudnicki said things were so bad that people in the industry left one job to make a few more dollars with someone else.
“I heard people come up on site and say, ‘Hey, can I pay you $ 10 more an hour to do the same job?’ and the next day they are gone. “
Williams said the pandemic had exacerbated labor shortages so much that they would work to get more people into the industry.
“We are reaching out to a whole range of different communities to encourage people from different communities to get involved in the construction community,” he said.
Between infrastructure programs and government projects, he said, “There is a lot of work in the pipeline for Nova Scotia.”
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