Bricklayers’ pay has surged 20% in the past six months as housebuilders struggle to keep up with a surge in demand for homes created by the Government’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme. Greg Fitzgerald, chief executive of house builder Galliford Try said, “I have evidence of us paying bricklayers 20% more than six to nine months ago. Pretty much, since Help to Buy on April 1, we have gone from an environment where if you made a mistake on a job and needed twice as many brickies you would just go and pick them up to a completely different ball game. We can see build inflation starting to come through for the first time in four or five years.”
The current trade shortfall comes after many workers left the building industry during the recession as fewer homes were being built. House builders also slashed prices they paid to building workers by a third, virtually overnight, as the financial crisis hit.
Now the industry is picking up, bricklayers have found they are in high demand. Fitzgerald said that “good bricklayers can currently command salaries of £40,000 a year, or even more in the capital as the industry struggles to meet demand”. It is worth considering that Fitzgerald is paid over a £1million a year made up of salary, bonus and stock options, compared to the £770 weekly bricklayer’s pay before tax. Who can blame trades such as bricklayers for demanding their share of the huge ‘Help to Buy’ generated profits the house builders are making in this current bubble market. It should be remembered that the site manager’s pay has been pinned back throughout the recession, even now, a Linden site manager is paid just £40,000 a year, the same value the company places on the bricklayers he manages.
Official figures show that between April and June, demand for both private and public sector new homes rose at its fastest rate since 2010. The increased demand is also causing a growing shortage of basic building materials such as bricks and more noticeably blocks, with increasing lead times and some house builders stockpiling on their sites to ensure they have sufficient ‘stock’ to meet build programme targets. Fitzgerald confirmed “There is an element of panicking going on whereby some builders are ordering more than they need.”