Garrett Francis, President
It is time to turn the calendar to a new year and while we in the construction industry don’t have a lot to complain about, we all can say farewell to 2021 with a certain sense of relief.
We can celebrate the end of another year of government stumbling through a never-ending battle with the COVID-19 virus which seems capable of outguessing our battle-weary virologists at every turn. There are only 24 letters in the Greek alphabet that the good doctors use to keep track of virus variants and we’re already down to Omicron, the 15th letter.
Now since we are looking at an unknown future with our only guide: William Shakespeare’s insight, “what is past is prologue”— (The Tempest), let’s look at what we know about the future.
First, no whining. Our designation as an “essential industry” allowed most of our projects to move forward without lockdown dilemmas and impossible regulatory burdens, which, while sometimes conflicting and always confusing, weren’t beyond our management capabilities. Based on the manhour reports from our construction trades our members have had another good year and it should continue into 2022.
Second, we want to keep moving in that positive direction. The obstacles in our path are much the same as they have been—dealing with workforce shortages, keeping a lid on materials cost where we can and staying on top of the ever-shifting regulatory environment, particularly with reference to health concerns for our workers.
Akey to recruiting and keeping a skilled workforce is making sure workers know they can have a long and successful career in construction, not merely view it as a “job” but as an opportunity. This is a message that both management and labor need to share, letting workers know that they can become a craftsman with a skillset that will be marketable anywhere.
On the cost side, many contractors are unfamiliar with the use of material price-escalation clauses in contracts. Under these provisions contractors can pass on material price increases to owners in exchange for smaller contingencies in their bids and give owners an opportunity to share in savings if prices drop. It is a carrot and carrot approach that benefits both sides.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Biden Administration Covid-19 mandates on large employers were beyond the powers of the President or his administrative agencies such as OSHA. Now we’ll wait to see if Governors and Mayors take the hint about their mandates or not.