Unemployed construction workers hanging on
Jobless rate lowest in five years, but many construction workers still benched
They call them the birds of paradise, and there are half a dozen flying over Honolulu's skyline.
Union leaders say each construction tower crane represents 700 to 800 jobs of all kinds.
“More carpenters, masons, iron workers, so we are looking forward to more of them," said Pane Meatoga.
Meatoga represents the operators in those cranes and wants to think the industry has already turned the corner.
By next year, economists actually expect a labor shortage and they singled out his union which also provides backhoe and forklift drivers.
Meatoga says the union has been busy re-training its members and finding new apprentices.
It's also counting on bringing back retirees because that expected demand for heavy equipment operators.
“And neighbor islands--we have lots of members out of work so we will be bringing them over. That’s our strategy to deal with the demand instead of going to other states," said Meatoga.
And while there are lots of high-rises in the planning pipeline, they're not turning dirt yet.
Of Meatoga's 3,500 members ,28 percent are still out of work
The carpenters’ union, with some 6,000 members , is the largest construction trade in the state. It hopes things will pick up in the next six months and activity will be in full swing over the next two years.
Rendon Quintua is one of the hundreds of unemployed carpenters who is getting tired of waiting. He says he showed up at the union hall Friday with about two dozen others for-- a single job opening.
He didn't get it.
"I started 400 on the list. That was four years ago. Now, I am number four, so hopefully ,cross my fingers, they will call me soon,” Quintua said.
He says he keeps hearing, "hang in there."
But it’s getting old year after year.
“I guess the guys at the union are trying their best, but hey, try tell that to the bill collectors," Quintua said.
Not quite paradise living.
Lots of union eyes looking up to the skies for more birds of paradise.
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