Time for Change
Debate is my motivation for writing this not controversy. I want to get that out there, right off the bat.
I'm neither protagonist nor militant in nature, but I am tired. Tired of hearing the same complaints again, and again, and again. Something needs to change and I think it's high time our industry accepted this.
With over 22 years in the crane industry I've travelled the length and breadth of this entire country for work. Never has the call for wage rise been so loud, or so consistent.
Yes there are currently factors out with the control of our industry, with the cost of living and rising energy prices which affect everyone, but it's more than that. Operators are disillusioned with a general feeling of being grossly under valued like never before. The need to work inhuman hours to put food on the table never more common.
The "poorest man on the building site" has never been more prevalent, and in a building industry thats positively booming! Why is that exactly? A building industry that's never placed more emphasis on health and safety, or direct responsibility for that matter on the operator.
Who on a building site has more responsibility than a crane operator exactly, and why isn't that responsibility reflected in the pay rate? We live in an age where most big building sites openly advertise "top rates paid" for every trade you care to mention yet these same companies want to pay buttons for the machines that facilitate every worker on the site! The knock on effect of course is your pay rate remains paltry by comparison. It needs to change!
Skills and experience are earned the hard way, making mistakes and learning from that comes at a cost. Improving and honing to the point where it's easy for the hirer to complete his job. Why should that be undervalued?
To travel £1mil + machinery hundreds of miles around the country without incident on a weekly basis. Why should that asset not be valued on a par with a bricklayer, a joiner, a plumber or welder. Are our skills worth less? If not, then why (conservatively speaking) do we have to work on average a third more hours for similar take home?
Your chippy or brikie mates are on the way home at 14:30 because they can afford to. They will also be on the golf course at the weekend if the mood takes. How many of us can say that? You just know you will be last off that site and returning to that yard at 19:00 at the earliest. Oh and by the way "I need you to work on Sunday!" Sound familiar?
Consequently, as any seasoned crane operator will tell you , that eventually puts a strain on family life and relationships.
The whole "race to the bottom" argument regards hire rates has been done to death. I believe most guys in our industry understand and indeed sympathise with employers on this. We are acutely aware how competitive our Industry is.
Only the blind or the dim can't see the current trend of smaller firms going to the wall, or getting perilously close to shutting the gates. The switch to white diesel and the inevitable m.o.t. legislation to follow will only ramp up pressure on firms, unless there is a collective agreement to pass on costs to the hirer.
So what's to be done ? What's the solution? Something tangible needs to be forthcoming because personally speaking I've never encountered so many people currently looking at alternative career choices.