Bricklayer shortage hits Windsor

All 140 members of the International Union of Bricklayers Allied Craftworkers Local 6 in Windsor are fully employed through next year.

Both unionized and self-employed bricklayers say there is plenty of work in Windsor

Contractor Hassan Skieneh talks about the bricklayer shortage in Windsor. 1:20

There is a shortage of bricklayers in Windsor a local union rep says.

All 140 members of the International Union of Bricklayers Allied Craftworkers Local 6 are fully employed through next year.

"And we can use at least five or 10 more bricklayers right now," said the local’s business manager, Mike Gagliano. "The industry at the moment looks really busy; it looks really good."

Gagliano credits several high-profile local projects with creating work. Projects include:

  • The Windsor jail.
  • New Windsor aquatic centre.
  • St. Clair College healthplex.
  • Schlegel Villages nursing home at St. Clair College.
  • LaSalle town hall.

Gagliano said there are also nursing homes to be built in Tecumseh and Amherstburg.

There is such a shortage of bricklayers, the union has two members from St. Catherines and one from both London and Michigan in town working.

Gagliano said it’s been five years since the union had to call in outside help.

Gagliano said once the big projects wrap up, he hopes construction of a new international crossing, toll and customs plaza will be underway.

"Hopefully with the new crossing, more work will come this way," he said.

Costing contractors money

Hassan Skieneh is president of SteelBird Construction and builds commercial, residential, industrial buildings.

Right now, he has a home being built on Assumption Street. It's on hold and behind schedule because he can't find any bricklayers.

He was supposed to be done three weeks ago.

"We've done everything from framing, heating cooling, electrical, plumbing but we got stuck with brick. we can't find a brick layer. So these bricks and sand and machines have been here for almost three weeks," he said. "If it's going to be like this it's costing us more money while we're building; more financing, more waiting. It costs us money when we build so the more we wait the more it costs for us. It's hurting us in a way."

Plenty of competition

Carol Neron has been a bricklayer since high school. He joined the union this week. He was previously self-employed. At one point, he had employees of his own who left for the union.

"I figured I’d join, too. It’s hard to get paid at the end of the job in a timely fashion," he said of being self employed.

He said Windsor "has lots of work" that is attracting out-of-town self-employed bricklayers.

"There are people coming from Peterborough and Toronto to work here, too," he said of self-employed bricklayers. "Whoever can do it cheaper than the other guy gets the job. There’s a lot of competition out there."

The going rate for a unionized bricklayer at Local 6 is $49.41/hr. That includes wages and benefits.

The local also has a partnership with St. Clair College which offers apprenticeship, upgrade, and safety training programs.

Gagliano said bricklaying is a viable career right now. He said the average age of a bricklayer in Windsor is 47.

"So if they retire when they’re 60, in another 12 years we’ll be needing bricklayers. In another five years we’ll be needing bricklayers," he said. "There will be work for them. There is always a need for new blood."

Skieneh said there will always be a nee for bricklayers — period.

"In this trade, there is no machine that was created to do this job. It's still by hand," he said. "And there's not that many bricklayers in town."