construction-carpentry

A unionized carpenter in Saint John earns $26.52 an hour, the lowest in the country. (Toby Talbot/Associated Press)

Unionized carpenters in Saint John are the lowest paid in the country, according to new data from Statistics Canada.

They earn $26.52 an hour, about $3 less than their peers in Halifax and almost $14 less than those out west, the figures for 21 metropolitan areas show.

Mark Fowler, a private contractor from Rothesay with 20 years of experience, knows he can get a better wage elsewhere.

"I can see it very tempting to go out west," he said.

Fowler doesn't want to uproot his family, but says there's also a lack of work.

About a third of the the 3,000 unionized carpenters aren't working full-time, said Andrew Dawson, the New Brunswick provincial manager at the Atlantic Canada Regional Council of Carpenters.

"We haven't noticed a shortage of skilled workers, but what we can attest to is there's a shortage of skilled workers who want to work for less than they know they're worth," he said.

In negotiations

Dawson is hoping for wage increases. He's currently negotiating a new collective agreement between carpenters and the Saint John Construction Association.

But what Dawson really wants to see is another big construction project come to the province — something he says is desperately needed.

"We haven't noticed a shortage of skilled workers, but what we can attest to is there's a shortage of skilled workers who want to work for less than they know they're worth."

"Unless we get a major project here soon, there's going to be a period of a lot of folks relocating to other provinces, either permanently, or temporarily to get work," he said.

"We need a major project here in New Brunswick, in the worst way."