The B.C. construction industry plans to raise pay for its workers by 10 per cent over the next two years but there are concerns about slowing volume of work and shortage of workers.
Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) president Chris Gardner highlighted the results of the association’s annual survey of approximately 1,000 construction companies at the 23rd annual CEO Breakfast, kicking off the Buildex Vancouver 2020 construction tradeshow.
“Construction is the unsung hero of our provincial economy. What the 250,000 men and women in construction do accounts for about 10 per cent of our economy,” he said. “It doesn’t get the kind of attention that other industries do.”
Survey respondents said they expect to give their workers a 4.8 per cent raise; in 2021, they expect another 5.2 per cent increase. That’s more than double the rate of inflation, which is hovering at 2 per cent.
“It’s another strong year for the construction industry, with workers looking at substantial pay increases this year and next,” said Gardner. “Yet there are notes of caution being sounded by our members…the percentage of companies who expect more work this year than last is now at 40 per cent – the lowest in several years.”
The breakdown across regions show:
- Interior: 40% of contractors expect more work in 2020 than last year; 60% say they are short of workers, especially labourers, carpenters and framers.
- North: 38% of contractors expect more work in 2020 than last year; 46% say they are short of workers, especially carpenters, labourers and welders.
- Vancouver Island: 24% of contractors expect more work in 2020 than last year; 64% say they are short of workers, especially carpenters, labourers and plumbers.
- Lower Mainland: 42% of contractors expect more work in 2020 than last year; 68% say they are short of workers, especially carpenters, labourers and plumbers.
The major issue for members remains the same, with 64 per cent of construction contractor members say they cannot find enough workers. Gardner said the issue cuts across the entire economy.
“It’s not just about contractors not being able to find workers. It is in the retail sector, the hotel sector, the restaurant sector. Every sector of our economy is facing a shortage of workers. We are going over a demographic cliff in Canada,” he said.
Gardner added that the province has made the situation worse with the community benefits agreement, which he said excludes open shop workers from major projects like the Pattullo Bridge.
“It’s not fair, it’s not right and it is discriminatory,” he said.
Gardner was followed by guest speakers Bob Rennie and Andrew Ramlo of the Rennie Group, who discussed the current state of the market and some of the key economic and demographic factors that are driving it. They touched on the impacts of the aging Baby Boomers, immigration, the current state of new housing supply and housing policy changes, as well as where they think the market is going in 2020 and beyond.
Cheryl Mah is managing editor of Construction Business.