Free airfares, accommodation to lure interstate workers to WA as home building booms

August 28, 2020

Free airfares, accommodation to lure interstate workers to WA as home building booms

August 28, 2020

WA’s home building boom is pushing some construction companies to look interstate for workers and offer up huge incentives, including airfares and accommodation, to lure them.

Wormall Civil, an engineering construction company with infrastructure projects across Perth, is offering a suite of incentives to attract interstate workers — provided they can get approval to enter the state under COVID-19 restrictions.

Its online job ad spruiks return airfares to Perth, six months’ accommodation including utilities in “a modern fully furnished share house”, and the cost of two weeks in quarantine, among other benefits.

“Western Australia is COVID-19 free and enjoys the freedoms we are all used to,” the ad stated.

“If you’re looking for a sea change, meet the essential criteria and willing to abide by Government entry requirements.”

‘We are run off our feet’

Managing director Shane Wormall said he needed to recruit 20 to 30 workers.

“It has never been busier, we are run off our feet — as is the whole industry,” he said.

“We are extremely short-staffed presently.

“We have the resource sector here in WA that is drawing from the same pool of people as well, [and] a lot of big capital infrastructure projects.

A house under construction with building materials in the foreground.
HIA believes WA may be the only state to increase home building starts in the coming year.(ABC News: Graeme Powell)

“We’ve reached out now and tried to go out on a limb and advertised in the Northern Territory, in Queensland and in South Australia to try and get final trim machine operators here in Western Australia.

“We are looking for final trim operators, excavators, front end loaders and the likes.”

‘From historic low to historic high’

HIA executive director Cath Hart said the demand for skilled labour was a direct result of state and federal government home builder stimulus packages — $25,000 from the Federal Government and then another $20,000 from the West Australian Government.

She said new home sales data showed a 170 per cent increase in sales in the two months since the government incentives were announced, compared with the previous two months.

“When the grants were announced, the residential building industry in WA was at a 20-year low in activity, so we are effectively going from a historic low to a historic high pretty well overnight,” she said.

“So it doesn’t come as a complete surprise that we have some constraints around labour and land.”

Cath Hart smiling and standing in front of shrubs.
Cath Hart says new home sales data has skyrocketed since government incentives were announced.(ABC News: Rhiannon Shine)

Ms Hart said she hoped skilled workers who left WA after the mining boom might return to the state for work.

Worker shortage pushing wages up

“HIA’s latest forecast for residential building shows that WA will be the only state to increase home building starts in the coming year,” she said.

“And interestingly in detached housing, we are also seeing a return to pre-COVID levels of activity.”

Hays Recruiting state director Chris Kent said there was a labour shortage across mining and construction, with operator drivers in high demand.

He said it would be difficult to attract workers from interstate for short-term contracts.

“The challenge with some of this contract work is it is hard to lure families, particularly if they have to come over and isolate for two weeks for a casual position,” he said.

Chris Kent looks at the camera while sitting at a row of desks in a boardroom.
Chris Kent says some companies are putting wages up to attract workers.(ABC News: Elicia Kennedy)

“The solution is really to look to our displaced workforce and see if we can upskill them quickly and safely.”

He said some companies were pushing up wages in order to attract workers.

“It is definitely putting upward pressure on hourly rates for casual labour and casual operators,” he said.

“Really the only thing that can be done is more friendly rosters, higher wages and potentially bonuses for completion of contracts.

“Unfortunately, companies with a lesser brand will probably need to pay a little more than the big-name companies in order to attract staff.”