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B.C. open shop contractors are optimistic about 2014

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The open-shop contractors association in British Columbia is optimistic about the prospects for the construction industry in 2014, but there is some concern that growth and labour shortages will put upward pressure on wages.

The open-shop contractors association in British Columbia is optimistic about the prospects for the construction industry in 2014, but there is some concern that growth and labour shortages will put upward pressure on wages.

“We surveyed our members and found that 53 per cent think 2014 will be as good as 2013 and 41 per cent believe it will be even better,” said Philip Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA).

“Just six per cent expect a slowdown.”

The ICBA 2014 Wages & Benefits Survey conducted by Sentis Market Research found that its member companies are feeling positive about 2014, with a large share predicting their volume of work will stay the same or increase in the upcoming year.

With some firms predicting work volumes will remain the same or improve and others expecting a slowdown, the survey forecasts a net positive increase of 35 per cent.

In particular, Northern B.C. is gearing up for strong demand for construction services, with 71 per cent of companies predicting increased business, compared with 30 per cent to 44 per cent in the rest of the province.

According to the survey, all construction trades in B.C. are predicting that 2014 will be at least as busy as 2013.

The top five trades facing the highest demand are: cement & concrete finishers, refrigeration & HVAC mechanics, excavation workers, labourers, and electricians.

As a result, a refrigeration mechanic’s pay will range up to $40.17 in 2014, which is an increase of 3.0 per cent. Cement & concrete finishers will have the highest increase in wages (5.0 per cent).

A wide range of other trades are also expecting to experience strong demand including plumbers, carpenters, truck drivers and safety officers.

Painters are the trade expecting the least wage growth in 2014 at 1.0 per cent.

On average, open shop construction companies in B.C. are budgeting on an overall wage increase of 3.0 per cent for trades in 2014 and a 4.0 per cent increase in 2015.

In response, 35 per cent of all companies are planning to add new employees, while 8.0 per cent will increase their employee’s hours.

Some companies – such as those in refrigeration and HVAC, glaziers, roofers and sheet metal workers, expect they will need to do both to handle the increased workload. The preference for hiring new employees over adding hours suggests that many companies have already maximized their capacity with their existing employees.

The 2014 ICBA Wage & Benefits Survey was conducted by Sentis Market Research in November 2013 with 574 B.C. open shop construction companies, across a range of sectors and trades.

The results of the comprehensive survey, which also includes questions about wages and benefits, will be used to inform management decisions.

The ICBA represents companies in B.C.’s open shop construction industry, including the industrial, commercial and institutional, as well as the residential construction sector.

by Richard Gilbert

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