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We are being under sold

I am a highly experienced freelance heavy crane operator, and for the past five months have been looking for work outside of the U.K. as a precautionary measure should UK work become scarce due a Brexit induced slow down.

During this time I have made a startling discovery, it seems that we are now among the lowest paid heavy crane operators in Europe. Yep we are now viewed by many crane companies as being in the same camp as Romanian or Bulgarian workers, and it’s got nothing to do with Brexit.
So first of all let’s get the whole Brexit mess out the way, yes Brexit is causing us some grief as I have been turned down for two contracts so far that are due to start in Europe, where they actually told me on the phone “sorry but due to the uncertainty with Brexit, we can’t take you until it’s all cleared up!” it’s not the fact we are leaving so much, it’s the mess our politicians have made by not leaving.

Getting back to the rates debate, over the past few months I have been talking to many large European crane companies and at the same time chatting to some of the guys that work for them, mostly to get an idea what they are like to work for, and to find out what sort of money their operators are taking home each week. And what has shocked me the most is the difference between what these lads are getting and what those same companies are offering UK operators for doing the same work. In one case, a French Guy I know is getting €50 a hour, plus all the perks like hotel and flights all paid for etc… The same company offered three UK workers, including myself, €35 a hour, now that’s a massive difference by any standards. Now don’t for one minute think that I am being ungrateful for this offer as even at €35 a hour is still great compared to the awful rates for operators in the U.K.

€35 an hour is still around £25 to £26 a hour when converted and you are not spending money on digs or travel unlike working for a British crane company. So my conclusion is that The U.K. will start to see a fall in skilled crane operators over the next few years, especially within the heavy crane industry. Why would you want to work for £15 a hour and have to pay out for digs, food and travel when you could work for a European company and get £25 to 26 a hour plus everything paid for you?

But the point is that even €35 a hour is still very cheap compared to what the continental Europeans are paid, so don’t under sale your skills or trade.

About the Author: The Crane Man is a highly skilled crane operator with many years experience on a range of large mobile telescopic cranes and large lattice crawlers. Given his freelance status, and perhaps his forthright views, he believes that it might be sensible to withhold his identity, in order to protect his earnings. He is our first person to provide a guest editorial, and is likely to become a regular.


Until there is a concerted effort by the industry as a whole to drive rates up things will never change . We see a lack of general maintenance because there is just no way to stand these machines and work on them when the pressure is on to get them out earning money . The sooner all cranes are subjected to MOT's the better , this will drive the worst companies from the market and allow the people who want to do it properly to charge realistic rates .

Jun 26, 2019

The truth of the matter is crane operators are not anything special, it does not take much to take a person give him some training on how to lift a load safely. Everything is done for the crane operators, there is no planning or logic they have to do as everything is done for them like lift plans. The hardest job an operator has is setting his mats out, but yet they go on like it’s the hardest job in the industry. When it’s cold they stick there heater on and when it’s hot stick there air conditioning on and just sit on there arse. Yet after all these skilled operators they still manage to destroy there cranes. Now don’t get me wrong there are some good operators out there but the majority of the UK ones are moaning mugs.

Jun 24, 2019

Crane expert
Ok finally somebody has said what we all was thinking, the U.K. crane industry is going backwards with its rates and operators are taking the brunt of it. Who ever this “crane man” is he has hit the nail on the head Let’s have more words of crane wisdom from him please.

Jun 6, 2019

Snakes and Ladders
Try powered access undersold !?, they are giving it away for numbers sacrificing the whole industry and are unable to get engineers because they forgot they needed to train them and don't want to pay a realistic wage either.But they know what they are Doing?

Jun 5, 2019

lever monkey
There is no easy solution to this problem and there will always be valid arguments from both sides. But I feel like there should be some form of rate setting and ruling from a governing body and agreed with unions. Thus allowing the hire rates to be just and the wages also. I don’t feel like we will ever keep up with the unions and wages from other countries as we don’t have the standing with them as we had “back in the day” but I agree the pay rates are getting ridiculously low in comparison with minimum and living wages as is the standards of care for operators from employers. All I know is unless things change rapidly there will soon be a huge shortage of drivers in the uk because the game won’t be worth getting into

Jun 4, 2019

David Savage
The British crane hire industry rates must be the most unrealistic in the world given the capital cost of a new crane the employment costs overheads especially insurance we.are probably working for about fifty per cent of what we should be getting.
Companies are surviving by trading cranes and a few good jobs.
Rate cutters are even doing contract lifts at give away rates.
What’s the answer?
I’ve been in the business for fifty years and I don’t know.g

May 31, 2019

With all due respects.
I would love to pay those European hourly rates, unfortunately we have very British hire rates that have changed very little in over 25 years.

May 30, 2019