The Boston Globe | By Tim Logan
October 15, 2016
Yes Carbajal has been busy.
A former waitress turned union construction worker, Carbajal has been working six days a week — 50 to 55 hours — helping build a massive concrete foundation at the new Wynn Boston Harbor casino in Everett. That’s almost done, and she’s aiming to roll on to another piece of the vast project, then another, until the whole thing is done in 2019. That would be three years of steady work in a business that can be famously feast-or-famine.
Employment is at a 26-year-high. Average incomes have climbed steadily, and faster than inflation, since 2010. Projects valued at $26 billion have launched since 2014, with billions more planned.
And now the single biggest private-sector development Greater Boston has ever seen, Wynn’s $2.1 billion casino, is underway, providing more than a year’s worth of work, on average, for 4,000 construction workers over the next three years.
It’s a surge that has some developers worrying the labor market could overheat, with too few skilled workers and subcontractors to handle it all. They are concerned not so much about now, but a year or two down the road, when the casino job is in full swing and other big projects start hiring.
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Yet the region’s biggest construction firms, and the unions whose members they employ, say they’re confident there will be enough workers to go around. It just might take a little juggling.
“Everybody is looking at this issue,” said Les Hiscoe, president of Shawmut Design & Construction. “There’s kind of a war for talent going on.”
That has been the case for several years, as building has ramped up in the Boston area. Workers who endured lean times during the recession have seen their hours expand. Subcontractors, who are typically hired by general contractors for pieces of a large project — electrical work, for instance, or steel framing — have had their pick of lucrative jobs.
Then came the casino.
The project got started in earnest this summer, with plans to put a 27-floor hotel, a 13-acre gaming and entertainment complex, and a 3,000-car underground garage on the site of an old chemical plant along the Mystic River. There’s a power plant to build, new parks to landscape, and a riverwalk and boat docks to lay out across 33 acres. Construction alone is expected to cost $1.2 billion.
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