~ Getting contracts for new construction jobs ‘uncertain’ ~
PHILIPSBURG–The waiting time for building permits and the process and procedure to obtain employment permits were amongst the concerns expressed by members of the construction sector during a meet-and-greet held at the Government Building on March 19.
Construction companies said also that with current contracts nearing completion, the possibility to obtain contracts for new jobs is uncertain, as the projected big projects have not yet started.
On the financial side, limited funding was brought up as a challenge. For individuals or companies that have the situation where insurance monies or personal savings have been depleted before a job is complete, this poses a big a challenge to complete jobs. This same financial issue was identified as an obstacle for new construction jobs to start.
In reporting on the meeting, Labour Minister Emil Lee said that as it relates to Government services, attendees provided feedback that the waiting time for building permit requests to be approved by the Ministry of VROMI posed a risk to their operations; for some, delaying the execution of jobs.
The process and procedure to obtain work permits from the Department of Labour was also criticised as being “too cumbersome and too difficult.”
Lee said the Ministry could do better in explaining the process and the requirements for work permits. He pointed out that the requirements are defined in legislation and there is the obligation to follow the law.
The current general processing time of correctly-submitted work permit requests is two to four weeks. Lee said he sees that the majority of properly-submitted work permit requests are being approved in a timely fashion; the processing of the work permit requests should not be an obstacle. Companies that encounter difficulties with the work permit request procedures are encouraged to visit the Ministry for clarification and assistance.
Attendees believe the National Recovery Bureau projects should be more accessible. There were complaints that tender documents are 80 pages long, “a daunting book” that hampers participation.
In a presentation given by the National Recovery Bureau during the event, it was indicated that training opportunities will be organised about the tender application process for projects funded by the World Bank. Lee said he was happy to see this being included in the plans, as it stimulates local participation.
The meet-and-greet targeted companies that are active in the local construction sector. Government coordinated the session to receive feedback on the current state of affairs in the construction sector.
Several topics were presented and discussed, including the demand for local skilled labour, availability of construction work, government permit processes and the tender processes of the recovery projects funded by the World Bank.
Speakers included Lee, Labour Head Inspector Andrew Budike and National Recovery Plan Bureau Head Claret Connor.
“Rebuilding without having local workers and companies involved is not what I consider a true recovery. A recovery process needs to be inclusive to rebuild our economy as well as our physical structures in our economy,” Lee said.
He said about 90 per cent of the recent graduates of the construction training programme that was being held at National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) and MIC-IT have already transitioned into the labour market, many with full-time employment.
The graduates were participants in the Ministry’s Emergency Income Training and Support programme that offers unemployed and underemployed residents free skills training for construction and hospitality sectors, a stipend as income and medical insurance. The successful transition into the workforce is another milestone of the Ministry’s programme, which is funded by the World Bank.
NIPA and MIC-IT representatives were present at the session and able to take the feedback provided on the requirements of construction companies for skilled workers. This feedback will be considered for further implementation in the training programmes.
The event was “well attended” and participants were very engaged, establishing a good dialogue on the topics addressed. Lee reported that there were mixed reactions as to the prognosis of future work in the local construction sector.