Hiring skilled labour
People have been quite scathing as to the quality of work out here but it has to be said that there is a pretty high proportion of cowboys back home – just try shopping around for a plumbing quote and see how wildly the figures vary – so in my opinion it is quite unfair. Here I will try to outline two contrasting experiences and some tips for hiring hands, but in short there are idiosyncracies in the methods of working here but essentially things work very similarly to how they do in the rest of the world.
The first job that we outsourced on the house was new windows (PVC: not much in the way of rustic charm, but as I sit writing this article in front of a log fire in my draught-free house I certainly appreciate their functionality and frankly couldn’t care less! We have a separate article on the perks and pitfalls of this venture here). This guy came as a personal recommendation – something one should always try to get when entering the fray that is hiring labour – so we were a little more at ease than we would have been had we found him ourselves – and the job was done very well by a very hardworking team. They were very courteous and checked things with us before doing anything. Great service! It was paid for with deposit of half the total fee followed by the other half upon completion. This is not necessarily the convention. I told myself when we moved out here that I would be adamant about paying by the day… but I was surprised to find myself handing over a chunk of our savings to a guy that said he was going to install our windows, that could quite easily have disappeared off the face of the planet for all we knew, just because he asked politely. When we first moved to Bulgaria we got the following advice about hiring manual labour, be it skilled or unskilled: buy materials yourself or go with them to do so because otherwise they will drink away all of the money (!!), and to pay labourers by the day… for the same reason. I have been inundated with this view from friends out here, Bulgarian and English alike, and it arises because essentially if you are here for long enough you will probably have a bad experience! And unfortunately bad experiences tend to be more memorable than good in these situations. The following is an experience that turned out alright in the end, but could have ended terribly!
The following job, the installation of a staircase, was a bit of a crash course in Bulgarian utilitarian workmanship. We were not very pleased to say the least with the way that this job was done and we felt quite duped at the end of the first day when he claimed that the work was done (the pictures are here, it’s really rather hilarious). Although in the end a simple temper tantrum on my part got the work out of him, it actually highlighted the fact that we had not agreed an exact specification – this was our error, not his. Although this job did not go entirely according to plan (well, we really didn’t have much of a plan as it transpired!), we are pleased with the finished article.
We learnt some important lessons from this experience: that you have to be present and watching the work take place (even though watching a man chainsawing through our floor when he was clearly very hungover is a bit like watching car-crash TV) just in case there has been a misunderstanding or they are not carrying out work as you had planned; and that you have to be very specific about the work that you want done. Even though the first experience with the windows went well, it taught us the value of personal recommendations! If you are moving to a foreign country it is very much worth getting to know the locals because aside from their friendship, which always helps to settle into a new community, you will be able to find good labourers that are actually skilled at what they do. At least that is the idea. If your lingo is a bit patchy, find some English speakers also to cross reference with. However, you will find that in a country where most of the population is walking the poverty line, you will get a lot of people telling you that they are a seasoned professional when they are not because it’s the only way they can earn a living.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 18 October 2009 22:25|