Keeping staff a challenge

MARTA STEEMAN
Last updated 05:00 21/08/2014

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Fletcher Building is using bonuses and retentions to stop the bleeding of staff as the under-$100,000 earthquake home repair programme enters the home straight.

Fletcher EQR, the division of Fletcher Building contracted to project manage repairs in Canterbury between $10,000 and $100,000 for the Earthquake Commission, had just under 500 staff at the end of June, down from a 700 peak.

New Zealand's largest building company said yesterday when reporting its profit that the Canterbury home repair programme would be "substantially complete" by the end of this year. It started in 2012.

One of the challenges was to retain staff through the final phase when they knew in six months the work would be largely done, Group general manager investor relations Philip King said.

The company had had to put in HR policies to manage that.

"Critical roles might get retention payments or bonuses at the end of it."

Replacements were placed on fixed term contracts.

"This is going to be an interesting period when a major piece of work ends in Christchurch."

But with about 3 per cent unemployment in Canterbury and labour shortages, "you have to think there is going to be jobs across the broader market for these people".

King said with the accredited contractors, the worry had been that they might switch to other work in the city, but given the slow development of the central business district that was not a huge issue.

Some contractors would rather do commercial work than fiddly house repairs but at the moment numbers were "still manageable".

Fletcher EQR would available for other repair work once it completed the EQC contract.

There might be "pockets of opportunity" with other insurers and work with large landlords in the private and public sector.

At August 11, 59,000 repairs had been completed of an estimated total of 70,000 which EQC is expected to direct to Fletcher EQR to project manage.

This time last year Fletcher EQR was talking about managing 90,000 repairs and King would not comment on why the number had dropped.

By August last year 42,800 properties had been repaired by EQC and it has taken another year to do another 16,200 for a total of 59,000 repairs now.

King said nearly all the remaining repair work - about 11,000 repairs - would be started by December. Some work might take another three months in the New Year to complete.

Fletcher's project management fee is 3.5 per cent of the repairs it manages for EQR. Fletcher has never separated the revenue from the EQC contract. It is a small part of a huge business with revenue of $8.4 billion in the June 2014 year.

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- The Press

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