Red Deer residential construction permits are down but there is still building going on. Workers were busy in Evergreen on Wednesday. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Red Deer Advocate

Contractors struggling to find workers amid pandemic

Some South Cariboo contractors are postponing jobs until spring.

  • Sep. 18, 2020 12:00 a.m.

Some South Cariboo contractors and businesses are struggling to find workers and are postponing jobs until spring, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brandon Plewes, who runs the firewood business Cariboo Cord Kings, said he and other trades industries have been struggling to recruit people this year despite offering good wages. Some people he approached said they could only work a couple of days a week because they didn’t want to lose their Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) – the federal government money doled out to those whose jobs were affected by the pandemic.

“Everyone is on the CERB,” Plewes said. “The trades industry is having a hard time finding local guys because it’s a paid holiday. It’s been quite frustrating. It was great when they did it but now it’s run its course. We need to get back to work.”

Ron Reid, of Double R Renovations, agreed the CERB has had a huge impact on recruitment this year. As a result, he’s decided to retire and use sub-trades next year.

“Nobody wants to give up free money,” he said. “They don’t want to go back to work.”

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit has been in effect since March, providing financial support – $2,000 for a four-week period – to employed and self-employed Canadians directly affected by COVID-19.

The federal government extended the CERB from 24 weeks to 28 weeks for workers who stopped working due to COVID-19, are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted their Employment Insurance regular benefits or Employment Insurance benefits between Dec. 29, 2019 and Oct. 3, 2020. The program is expected to wind down on Sept. 27.

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Jennifer Feissli, program manager for Horton Ventures, said the number of people looking for work has been steady at the WorkBC Centre and comparable to last year, but there are fewer walk-ins as a result of COVID-19. There were about 70 job postings for local jobs in the past month.

Although she agreed “COVID-19 has certainly produced challenges for employers,” she declined to comment on the trades situation, referring questions to the employers themselves.

At Weston Roofing, the phone has been ringing off the hook, owner Yvonne Weston said, likely because so many people are bored and doing home renovations. But while they posted several ads over the summer, she said, they only got three resumes. Even if they do find someone, some workers don’t even show up. One person missed seven out 10 days on the job.

“It’s been horribly hard to find anyone to come and work,” Weston said, noting they have had to book their jobs in the spring as a result.

It’s not just contractors who are struggling. At the new Sweet Ash Bistro, owner Caitlyn Mielty has had to redo their schedule week-to-week because they have had trouble getting servers and cooks. “We just haven’t got a lot of applications,” she said.

Weston said they’re trying not to stress out about the situation. “I think everyone’s having the same problem,” she said. “Even I have to work on the roof sometimes to help out but we’re all doing what we can.”


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