• John Macedo

Skill does NOT MAKE MONEY in Australia's construction industry

Updated: Jul 28

Construction workers get paid for something else. Find out what.

More skill/experience means that you may be able to carry your responsibilities in a more effective/efficient manner.

When you ask for a pay rise based on skill, the skill doesn't really mean anything, but what matters is what you can do with it. In this case, what it means is that you should be accountable for greater production, therefore, more responsibility.


Let's imagine you work for a construction company and you're looking to increase your construction labourer wages. You have gained lots of skill in your job over the years and now you can clean faster/better.

For that reason you asked for a pay rise. If your boss says YES - he/she would implicitly be holding you accountable for a greater standard (faster or better quality).

Considering that you have already acquired the skill, you are asking for a pay rise and because you're delivering more than when you just started, your boss may simply update his/her level of expectation to your current level of skill.

In other words:

When you’ve just started you were cleaning 1 room per hour.

The boss was happy.

You gained skill and got faster, and now you clean 2 rooms per hour. You asked for a fair pay rise and you’ve got it.

Now your boss expects 2 rooms per hour and he's still pretty happy about it. So now its time to "send the bill".


As a suggestion, before you make your move asking for a pay rise based on your skill improvements, gather the data that supports your improvements.

If you could do X and now you do 2 times X, let your boss know that. If there was activities that you didn't perform but now you do perform, make sure your boss know that too.


Your boss may argue that he accounted for improvements and even invested on your training from the start (This may be a fair statement or not). When negotiating, your outcome is to do the right thing by you and for the company. Be ready do make a point and be ready do understand the company's side.

This works regardless if you're working for a labour hire company, a construction company or any other type of company. It also is independent of your rank.


Let's consider that your the tide didn't turn in your favour this time.

Use this opportunity to clarify with the company manager what are the levels of performance would justify a pay rise. (you may have to assume more responsibilities as well). This will give you a clear career plan that you can follow and also a metric to evaluate your achievements.


A common - but unfortunate - scenario that often happens in the construction industry is:

A worker gains more skills and asks for a pay rise, followed closely by the boss denying him of the raise.

It leads some workers to DROP their performance to what is they judge to be fair for the current pay rate. In situations where that a worker cannot unlearn a skill, they can only drop their performance by slacking at work. As a consequence, the boss notices that the worker is not being professional, or working at his/her peak, which can be distressing.

✳️On the other hand

The employee does not feel valued by the management and gets upset too.

Usually this problem leads to a stressful encounter for both ends.

The employee wants more money in order to rise his performance - and the Boss wants more performance in order to justify the pay rise (now even more than the before, to compensate the loss trust due to the slacking). As you may guess, this trap usually gets someone fired.

⚠️ The solo problem here is poor communication, meaning: no negotiation.

As a worker, or boss, do the best that you can to keep the communication line open and clearly state what you expect as pay/performance. Do not let yourself fall into the fire trap.


Don't fear negotiating the acquiring of a new skill or gaining new responsibilities with your boss. Remember it's good for him too!


When I was a general labourer working for the a construction company, I was considering becoming a truck driver and I actually negotiated it with the bosses at the time. The deal was: I was going to get myself a truck diver license (from my own pocket) and the company would allow me to drive the trucks for training.

Turns out that I wouldn't be able to get the pay rise until I was, at least, a decent driver, meaning that I would have to drive at a decent speed, load and unload the truck in a proper and safe manner, not getting fined by state polices and definitely not crashing. I considered what they’ve set as a standard and I estimated that it would take me about 6 months to complete it*.

After I did a fair bit of reflection and research, based on the price he gave me as payment, I ended up not pursuing the truck driving path. If I had negotiated a better pay raise for truck driving maybe things would have turned out differently. A “way leads to another”, so who knows?

*Maybe you don't want to wait that long. Consider negotiating a smaller raise in 3 months on some less ambitious goals. Or maybe you’re going for the big pot in a year-long project. It's up to you to draw your own strategy.

✳️I Became an Excavator Operator instead - Then I opened Spades Labour Hire.


Regardless what is your role in the construction industry, always make sure you pursue goals that you are happy about and make sure you don't fight the battles that you gain nothing by winning.

A FREE Bonus for you ◀️

From years of experience dealing with people in the construction industry (Workers - Foremans - Project managers), We've noticed that most of the problems happen due to lack of communication skills.

👉 We wrote our own Delegation Manual that gives you a 5-step-guide that will end it once and for all.

Your labourers and tradies will

listen ➡️ understand ➡️ execute



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