Chch rebuild company: Migrant workers cheaper

By Shelley Robinson

Leighs Construction says it has brought in 52 qualified Filipino construction workers. Photo / File / NZPA
Leighs Construction says it has brought in 52 qualified Filipino construction workers. Photo / File / NZPA

A major construction company involved in the Christchurch rebuild says it uses migrant workers because they are cheaper than local builders.

It comes at a time when builders say they are laying off staff and facing financial ruin because of delays from insurance companies and the Earthquake Commission.

Leighs Construction says it has brought in 52 qualified Filipino construction workers with another "10 on the water" because subcontracting to local building firms cost too much.

"The reality is for a builder to employ another builder comes with premiums and we are trying to bring down the cost of the rebuild - it just doesn't work financially," Leighs Construction operations manager Graeme Earl said.

Mr Earl said Leighs paid the workers $22-$27 an hour - the same rate paid to local builders, but using local builders means extra overheads, including paying for their profit margin.

"Therefore it is too expensive," he said.

Said Mr Earl: "They [local builders] have to put up their hand and get out there and get the work. We are not bringing in people at the detriment of our local workers in New Zealand," he said.

Labour's earthquake recovery spokeswoman Ruth Dyson said 378 work permits had been granted to carpenters in the city's rebuild - an increase from 93 work permits the previous year.

"We should be using local skilled builders first, New Zealand workers second and then overseas workers," she said.

She said Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee needed to find out why there builders were running out of work yet overseas workers still being bought in.

Mr Brownlee declined to comment but a spokesman said: "The Earthquake Commission and Fletcher EQR have made it very clear in recent weeks that plenty of work exists."

A builder, who did not want to be named for fear of being "blacklisted" by EQC and insurance companies said Leighs Construction and other larger building firms should "be ashamed".

"I am absolutely dead against it [bringing migrant workers]. Here I am running around trying to find work for six guys and they are bringing in people from overseas? That's not right."

Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said 378 work permits were insignificant to what was needed in the rebuild over the next few months.

"The enormity of the task ahead means there will be work for everyone," he said.

- CHRISTCHURCH STAR

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 14 Jul 2014 23:14:27 Processing Time: 787ms