The Taxman Cometh

I hear the Australian Tax Office are targeting plasterers this year.  I presume they mean plaster board fixers and setters (or ceilings and partitions) as they make up the majority of people in this trade category with the balance being renderers.

Now, I have a theory, wait please stay with me, that there are critical points in a project that never appear on the construction programme. These points are relevant to the “feel” of the project rather than actual site activities. The commencement of the plasterers is one of these points. When a project kicks off it usually follows the sequence of earthworks, foundations, structure, etc. The people involved in those trades see the building come out of the ground and take shape. They get to know each other, the bedding in process with the site manager has taken place. Now we all know this stage, we have danced around the dog turds, settled down our union friends, sorted out most of the gaps in the documentation, worked out what the estimator left out.  In other words after the initial hoop la we settle in to a daily cycle of activity. We may even have put on a BBQ for “the boys”. Then the plasterers arrive.  Often a motley crew of semi skilled, half trained, ne’er do wells.  Morale on site plummets, disruption to the programme is inevitable and all semblance of a team approach vanishes.

Why is this?  OK I could spruik on about “ownership of the project” or “stakeholders” based on the assumption that the early trades now feel usurped by these new arrivals. Let’s leave that to the trick-cyclists sorry psychiatrists. The real reason that the pace and feel of the project changes is that the fixing of plasterboard to studs and subsequent setting is carried out by semi skilled people who get paid a disproportionate rate. I had a job a few years ago where these characters were getting $45 per hour on a 50 hour guaranteed week, plus site allowance, travel etc. A larger job nearby was desparate for ceiling fixers so all the ones from my site left for $55 per hour, two weeks later they were enticed to another project at $62 hour. So they ended up on $185K per annum. What did they do with all this dosh, they bought V8 utes, Maloo’s of course, holidays in Bali, jet skis, ie all the necessities of life.

So now they have nothing to show for it, except maybe a big fat juicy bill from the Tax Department – my heart bleeds for them.

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