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Considering switching to another blue-collar firm - opinions welcomed
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Hardy Daytona Offline
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Considering switching to another blue-collar firm - opinions welcomed
As some of you may have gathered from posts in this section of the forum (as well as the occasional insight into bachelor pad mechanics) I currently work in the construction sector. Specifically, for a design and display firm based in South London. I was taken on earlier this year after having been formally unemployed for around a year, though doing the occasional cash job.
Despite having not worked for them for a protracted period of time, I've been feeling the rumblings of discontent. As a result, I've done my best to list the specific pro's and con's and would like input from other people with experience in this field to offer insight as to whether or not my concerns are justified since it's difficult to objectively judge my own situation.

Pro's
- Training. I've been in construction for ~3 years and prior to joining my current firm I was little more than a glorified labourer despite having accrued a decent amount of knowledge in various fields such as roofing, damp-proofing and general building repair. I still possess no individual qualifications however I'm now certified and approved by 2 regulatory bodies as an employee of my current firm.
Most recently, I was given a course for retro-fitting, outfitted with a set of tools, given a hire van and sent out on the road.
Succinctly put, I've gone up from labourer to contractor with this firm. There's still an abundance to learn but I've picked up a lot these last few months.
- All-masculine environment. As anyone who's worked as a builder knows, we shoot the shit a lot while we're on the job. It's part and parcel. We've got one female on the payroll and she works behind the scenes dealing with accountancy, logistics, bookings and so forth. As a result there's no female colleagues, HR minefield, female bosses, opinionated feminists or experimental equality program.
- Physical activity. While not as focused as a gym session, working this job certainly keeps me in decent shape. Lots of heavy lifting, palleting, hand-balling and movement keeps me from slacking.
- Benefits. The firm does pay for quite a few expenses. All of my petrol costs are taken care of, as are hotels if I need to stay away and I get £8/day for food.
- Independence. Depending on where I'm working I'll occasionally have to have my work quality-checked afterwards but more and more I've been given extra liberty with regards to monitoring. If I'm in the workshop or the warehouse it's not uncommon for me to go all day without having a look-in which is always nice.

Con's
- Working hours. As an example, tomorrow morning I have to be up at 4:30am and if I'm lucky I'll be home for 8pm. Now, if we take 6 hours as a minimum for sleep, that leaves 3 hours for paperwork, meals, showers and maybe some reading. It just doesn't leave enough to do anything of significant productivity. I've had to cut down my gym sessions to once a week since joining.
- Travelling. Again, I'll illustrate with an example. A couple of weeks ago I was given some snagging to do as part of a contract. I traveled from London to Glasgow to Cardiff to Cornwall and back to London again, clocking in a whopping 1436 miles in 5 days. While I was on the road I spoke to various other contractors and told them of my journey - they could scarcely believe that I had to go so far.
- Nutrition. Leading on from the last couple of points, my diet has suffered significantly. Waking up so early to get on the road, it's impossible to get a good breakfast. Nowhere of quality is open early enough and lunches are always rushed. If I'm on contract then I'm basically living off the contents of petrol stations. Making my own meals and taking them with me is possible, but not having any storage facilities I'm limited to only a couple of days worth at best before it spoils.
- Wages. I won't post my exact income but if we break it down I'm barely clearing £8 an hour. And considering how horrendously expensive everything in London is, that doesn't get me very far even if I am clocking in ~250 hours a month.

That about covers it. So, to my fellow contractors on the forum and any others with blue-collar experience, how does this weigh up in your eyes? Am I getting a raw deal or are these not unreasonable expectations on the part of my employer?
11-05-2015 02:20 PM
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NFallin Offline
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RE: Considering switching to another blue-collar firm - opinions welcomed
If your wage is working out to only 8 pounds an hour that's crazy. That's like 16 an hour here in Canada the same as a lower skilled labourer.

I only ever got into the construction/oil gas industry for the money, freedom, and flexibility. If those things disappear the industry isn't worth it in my opinion. Is there a more lucrative geographical area out where youre at? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel at your firm with a better position? Where's the real money made? I'd find that out and then do that.
11-05-2015 03:30 PM
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Engineer Offline
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RE: Considering switching to another blue-collar firm - opinions welcomed
Any chance to go into business for yourself?
11-05-2015 03:39 PM
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Hardy Daytona Offline
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RE: Considering switching to another blue-collar firm - opinions welcomed
(11-05-2015 03:30 PM)NFallin Wrote:  If your wage is working out to only 8 pounds an hour that's crazy. That's like 16 an hour here in Canada the same as a lower skilled labourer.

I only ever got into the construction/oil gas industry for the money, freedom, and flexibility. If those things disappear the industry isn't worth it in my opinion. Is there a more lucrative geographical area out where youre at? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel at your firm with a better position? Where's the real money made? I'd find that out and then do that.

In terms of Geography, I'm fairly well-placed at the moment being about 10 minutes away from a major transport hub so there's certainly no shortage of firms. and while it may be possible to advance at my current firm I can't see anything more lucrative until at least another year has passed. Real money comes from private building contracts.
For example, let's say that a customer has a problem with protruding damp in a certain section of their loft. It could be something as simple as a cracked roofing tile and some saturation. Easy fix - tiles off, batons off, replace felt, treat affected area, replaced damaged section and return to previous.
Now, even though I know how to do that and can do it, because I don't have anything certifiable behind me that says I can, it means I'm not a viable option without backing.

(11-05-2015 03:39 PM)Engineer Wrote:  Any chance to go into business for yourself?
This is something I've considered. But here in London, to say the deck is stacked would be an understatement. First, the market is saturated with smaller, independent firms as well as larger contractors which means competition is always high. Secondly, there's a ridiculous amount of legislation in place which means that starting even a man-and-his-van company means that there's a minefield of legal technicalities. I've never met anyone who didn't have trouble in that field. Then there's labour. With the vast influx of EE migrants as well as the soon-to-arrive Syrian refugees there's going to be an excessive work force which means wage compression. The only way to secure any work would be to offer it for a pauper's pay thus seriously impacting the return to investment ratio. Factor in constant monitoring bodies such as Trading Standards and it really becomes a hassle.
That's why I'm looking to jump firms as opposed to starting one of my own.
11-07-2015 07:31 AM
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roberto Offline
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RE: Considering switching to another blue-collar firm - opinions welcomed
(11-07-2015 07:31 AM)Hardy Daytona Wrote:  In terms of Geography, I'm fairly well-placed at the moment being about 10 minutes away from a major transport hub so there's certainly no shortage of firms. and while it may be possible to advance at my current firm I can't see anything more lucrative until at least another year has passed. Real money comes from private building contracts.
For example, let's say that a customer has a problem with protruding damp in a certain section of their loft. It could be something as simple as a cracked roofing tile and some saturation. Easy fix - tiles off, batons off, replace felt, treat affected area, replaced damaged section and return to previous.
Now, even though I know how to do that and can do it, because I don't have anything certifiable behind me that says I can, it means I'm not a viable option without backing.

What certs do you legally need? It's just roofing, not gas fitting or tree felling. I don't think you legally need any. Even public liability insurance is optional (though smart to have).

I think you're putting non-existant obstacles in your way. Trading standards?? They only target rogue traders. Do the job right and you'll never even think about them. You're damn right on where the money is, small private jobs. You'd only need one or two private jobs a week, 9-5, to clear the same profit. I suspect you already know this.

Don't fuck yourself over. The hours and travelling is not sustainable, let alone worth £8/hr in London.

Go balls out. You have no living costs to meet. So find that first private job and crack on. Use your car as a van to start with, get some basic tools. Public liability insurance will be about £100 a month I'd think. Do a REAL GOOD job, make the customer smile, do a bit of 'bullshit'. This is basically an extra you weren't paid to do. Example- we planted a tree last week for a new customer in her front garden. THe mower was on the truck for the next job, so whilst I set up the drip irrigation I had one of my guys run over the lawn to make it look spot on. Straight away she asked me to relay a patio, and I'm sure I will be recommended to her friends.

This is the key point- Reccomendation is KING when it comes to local trading. Underpromise, overdeliver, and you'll never be short of work. This will make you a decent living; if you want to make a killing you will have to weigh up whether it's worth the hassle and risk of getting three or four teams out on the road.

They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety- Benjamin Franklin, as if you didn't know...
11-07-2015 12:01 PM
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Hardy Daytona Offline
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RE: Considering switching to another blue-collar firm - opinions welcomed
(11-07-2015 12:01 PM)roberto Wrote:  Don't fuck yourself over. The hours and travelling is not sustainable, let alone worth £8/hr in London.
If I was on the fence about this before, after having to ride for over 3 hours today in the back of a sprinter with the tools, mdf panels and agb boards I'm damn sure now.
I'm getting out and unlike the Soprano's, I'll be staying out.
I've got a 3 week window over the Christmas period in which to job hunt. Since my best trade description would be showroom fitter, I'll be applying for that en masse. If unsuccessful then I'll be falling back to my old labouring days to apply for work with general building firm. If that doesn't work out then I'll hit up some of my contacts from my previous firms.
In any case, I've got a plan of action now and I'm going to sick to it.
To continue with this farcical work would be to do a disservice to myself. Hell, it'd certainly explain why most of the guys I work with need to indulge in alcohol and drugs on a semi-regular basis.
11-13-2015 11:58 AM
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