‘Labour Costs Are Too High If I Employ Brits’

'Labour costs are too high if I employ Brits'

Lucy Alexander
The Times December 21, 2006

Rae Borras is the chairman of Borras Construction Group, which has an annual turnover of 55 million.

He has always employed British construction workers, but is finding himself under increasing pressure to hire Poles because their cheaper labour rates enable his firm to remain competitive.

The construction industry is facing a serious dilemma. My company installs kitchens and bathrooms in council houses, but labour costs are 20 per cent cheaper if I employ Polish sub-contractors, he said.

Many of my competitors now price according to Polish rates, so should I therefore tender for work at competitive rates and put guys whove been working for me for 25 years on the dole, or do I rely on clients to say theyll pay me extra money for using local labour? Im unlikely to win contracts if I employ Brits, because the labour costs are too high.

Mr Borras has no criticism of British workers; he regards the dilemma as the consequence of national prosperity and generous employment rights.

He adds: Are we as a country really happy to put our own workers on the dole and use cheaper labour from Europe? If you came down from Mars you would say this situation was bloody ludicrous. Politicians are ignoring the consequences of this kind of immigration.

'I can't find anyone to give me a chance'

Lee Carder is 16 years old and lives in Morden, southwest London, writes Lorna Blackwood. He left school in July and immediately started looking for an apprenticeship in electrical installation.

He applied to small and large companies but found that none was offering apprenticeships.

Most companies said there was no need to offer people training as there are plenty of qualified electricians out there, he said.

He believes that the influx of EU workers is another obstacle for young men like him looking for skilled employment.

I think this is more common in other skilled professions, such as carpentry, plastering or the building industry. Electricians need to be able to read and write English, which does give me an advantage over some of the EU workers.

He started a course in electrical installation at North East Surrey College of Technology in September. As he is under 18, his education is free and he will be qualified in two years. However, to pass the course, he needs work experience. He is exasperated. So far he has only had an interview with Building Engineering Services Training (BEST), the specialist training provider for apprenticeships.

He is not the only student in this predicament. Only three or four people on my course have managed to find jobs. With 20 of us in the class that is a pretty depressing figure.