Workers lose jobs in cement shortage

The Incorporated Masterbuilders Association of Jamaica has reported that up to 30,000 construction workers have already been temporarily laid off as a result of a chronic cement shortage that has stalled several major and minor projects islandwide.

Don Mullings, immediate past president of the IMAJ, told The Gleaner that workers would have to be sent home as long as the industry remains starved of cement.

“If this continues a while longer almost all construction sites, except road works, will be closed,” he said.

Leo Taddeo, chief executive officer of New Era Homes 2000, predicted that, if the chronic shortage is not addressed by this weekend, the number of layoffs would increase.

“(It will reach) 80 per cent by the weekend … cement is drying up so fast it is not funny,” he added.

Mr. Taddeo told The Gleaner that his company was forced to beg 50 bags of cement recently, which would be finished by this weekend.

“(We) are laying people off every day … the masons are gone already. The cement we have will last until Saturday then the company will have to shut down,” lamented Mr. Taddeo.

He said his company has been forced to demolish one of the hurricane relief houses they built in Portland Cottage. Three other hurricane relief units, which cost $450,000 apiece, will also be demolished soon.

Garfield Daley, chief executive officer of Elegant Estates, said the shortage has severely hampered the progress of the Wedgewood Gardens project, which is located along Old Harbour Road, St. Catherine.

Mr. Daley said he, too, would soon have to start sending home workers temporarily.

And even the deceased might feel the pinch of the shortage, as the local funeral industry is fearing that a prolonged absence of the product would result in people not being able to bury their loved ones.

Ferdinand Madden, chief executive officer of Madden’s Funeral Supplies, told The Gleaner that Dovecot Memorial Park in St. Catherine has only another two weeks’ supply of cement and three weeks’ supply of pre-built vaults.

He revealed, however, that Dovecot Memorial Park 2 in St. James was in dire need of cement to create the lids used to cover the vaults.

“(They) need 14 bags urgently. If not, it could affect the interments for this weekend,” Mr. Madden said.

He added: “I am hoping cement will arrive in time, if not we will have a real serious problem at hand.”

Calvin Lyn, operator of the Oaklawn Memorial Garden in Mandeville, said his company has enough cement to last for about 30 days but would experience difficulties if the current dearth goes beyond a month.

Earlier this month reports surfaced that 500 tons of faulty cement from Caribbean Cement Company Limited entered the market in late February. Subsequently, the company recalled the cement manufactured during the period February 19 to 27. The disclosure of substandard cement permeating the market has resulted in a shortage that has stalled several major projects across the island.