Japanese survey report ‘iffy’ on local labor
Tuesday, 29 December 2009 04:22
by Romeo Carlos | Variety News Staff
THE New Year will dawn pregnant with uncertainty about the massive militarization of Guam. But it becomes clearer with each passing day that local workers and government coffers will not benefit so much from the economic promise of the military buildup as ballyhooed. What was not so clear until recently, however, is how local and U.S. hiring priorities may impact Japanese companies that will get a hefty share of the multi-billion buildup purse.
A 2007 Overseas Construction Costs Survey commissioned by the Japanese Ministry of Defense was presented earlier this month to a group of companies in Tokyo preparing to bid on military buildup projects valued at as much as $2 billion.
But a lack of a comprehensive U.S. planning and severe labor concerns could contribute to further delaying the Pentagon’s time-line for a troops transfer from Okinawa to Guam by 2014.
Yamashita Construction Corporation researched how much it would cost Japanese contractors to do business on Guam with the military realignment projects about to hit the pipeline.
Holidays on Mondays
The Japanese survey report quantifying the real cost of labor at the unit level pointed to the lower wages for local Guam workers than in Japan or on the U.S. mainland as a plus.
But the blunt analysis goes on to caution “low levels of productivity with more time spent per unit of work, and the limited number of workers…labor costs in whole may be higher than expected for the overall construction project.”
The survey noted that local workers are often taking “holidays” on Mondays following the bimonthly pay period and would thus contribute to absenteeism and worker shortage on projects.
A Guam-based Japanese businessman liaising with potential business interests from Japan echoes the construction survey assessments and insists the U.S. government has to do something to address the worker shortage if the buildup projects are not to fall victim to cost overruns.
Japanese researchers discovered what island residents and some lawmakers are still complaining about, two years after the report was first delivered to Japanese officials: the lack of a clear design or quantitative survey reports about the buildup upon which to perform proper costs analysis and planning make it a risky venture.
“There are limited skilled workers on Guam, and due to poor productivity, one project may need twice the number of workers or hours to complete than it would in Japan. And the Hawaiian congressman (Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-HI) making it harder to hire from the Philippines now. That changes everything really,” the Japanese businessman told Variety.
“This is something that has to be rethought,” he added, warning about requirements to hire local and U.S. workers first.
With the election of a new ruling party in Japan and the election of President Obama - the local Japanese agent for an Osaka-based company told Variety, “Our prime minister is acting bewildered and the U.S. has not made plans for getting enough workers, some companies want to come and see for themselves what is happening on Guam now.”