Friday, January 30, 2009

A Common Disaster

We've all been kinda holding our breath at work, not knowing how the current state of the economy is going to affect our industry. Generally speaking, construction is fairly heavily impacted by such. Residential construction is usually the worst but we in commercial work are still tossed about at times by the storms of the financial world. It is sort of like the difference between being out on the sea in a sailboat or a ship. When the storms get big enough though, even the ships are rocked and we are now beginning to feel the first strong winds of the tempest over the country.
Yesterday morning the superintendent called us all into the office before we got tools out; said he needed to talk to everybody for a minute. We all knew right then something was up. This boss is a quiet guy and never stops us from our routines at work unless something is up. My first thought was several of us were about to be laid off but that wasn't it. Starting next week we are all having to take a 4% reduction of pay and there will be no more company matching funds into our 401Ks. The pay reduction isn't horrible but it does effectively remove the entire raise we got back in October. I believe our company is really trying to keep everyone working though. All of our jobs are loaded up with personnel in order for everybody to have a home. When I say 'home' that's just construction slang for a place to work. Superintendents are often referred to as your 'daddy' also. Anyway, practically all the companies we deal with have been affected at this point. Many of our subcontractors have simply dropped down to a 32 hour work week. To tell the truth, I kinda wish that's what my company had elected to do. Many of the equipment rental businesses have laid off half their staff. Practically all jobs being bid now have 10-12 companies fighting for the contract. Most astounding of all is the profit margin that the companies are now willing to accept. Normally, if a job is cost plus, you get the cost to build the job and then 10% for profit. They are bidding jobs now at 2%. And for one of our biggest competitors, they are giving repeat customers a 1% rate.
We have actually started a couple of new jobs this month; very small ones but it's something and we continue to hear rumors of more work. So, we keep holding on. I'm taking today off just for a little break. There are plenty of carpenters on my job now so the boss said it was fine. We are kinda taking turns having a day here or there if somebody wants off. Many of the boys don't have that luxury, as they have a number of bills, but since I'm in a good way on that, a day off for me every once in a while will save a little labor cost for another day. And I can work on the house. One thing I have always liked about my company is that it really is like a family amongst the field personnel. We cling together when it's rough and try to watch out for each other. So, we'll ride this one out too.

Hey! one nice thing is that my orchid is getting ready to bloom again! I've never had this type plant before and wasn't sure if I could raise any but it seems to really love the house. This type orchid especially likes the abundant sunshine from this house design. It's loaded up with buds. They are such sparse and elegant plants. And in case you're wondering, I did not make that pot it's in but might try some in the future. So, hope everybody has a great Friday and I'll try to post some over the weekend.

*Cowboy Junkies


Floridacracker said...

Sounds like a good company to work with. We too are considering cuts or days off without pay to prevent layoffs of new teachers and staff.

Pablo said...

We've been told that we all must give up any merit increases (raises) this year. It was that, they told us, or people would have to be let go. I have to take it on faith that the finances they tell us are true. Sure would hate to think someone got laid off just so I could have my raise.

Ed Abbey said...

We've had to lay people off and most likely we will halt pay raises this year and possibly cut it some. Every morning I wake up and am still gainfully employed, I am considering a blessing these days.

edifice rex said...

Hey FC! The company is not quite what it used to be but still a good one.

Hey Pablo! We were told the same thing and I suspect we will forego any raises this year in addition to this. That's a good point that we all just have to trust our employers that they are not just taking advantage of the situation to save themselves a buck.

Hey Ed! You and me both! I don't think we'll be getting any raises this year either.