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Labour pains

Headline such as ‘Tunnellers on hunt for 15,000 staff’ (News, November 29) are becoming less and less shocking to me.
Shortages always seem to emerge on the backbone of a new massive project announcement. I think they are used as an excuse for project resource managers to travel around the world looking for what they term suitable and experienced labour.

All this is unnecessary. The shortage of labour is fictional. If the right price for this labour was on the table, no one would have to go looking for it – this labour would most certainly find you.

Additionally such labour shortages also provide the major contractors with pre-tender excuses for their failings in budgeting, time and, of course, poor workmanship. It is a shame that this industry is now compiling excuses for these failings.

The crux of the matter is that experienced miners - and the best miners in the world -are reluctant to work down tunnels with the ‘ten per cent men’. These men take the work on and then place one good miner alongside novices, who they charge the earth for. This has done to our thriving industry what it has done to every other one, alienated all the good workers.

I have been a successful subcontractor for over 30 years and have been taking work on price throughout my career. But ‘Mr. Ten per cent’ has taken over. Tunnel labour and engineers have now got sense and realised that they can stay above the ground and earn more money for less hours and days than they would underground.

I suggest two things to these companies who cannot find good labour. Firstly, they should revert back to the system which proved so well during the 1960, 70s and 1980s - a system which set targets and paid decent wages. Secondly, if you pay peanuts, monkeys will usually apply.

Dermot Kane
Kane Tunnelling