An artist's impression of the new hospital.
An artist's impression of the new hospital.

A total of 22 staff at an engineering firm have been laid off — ten of them Bermudian — after their work on the new hospital building came to an end.

And a spokesman for the Pembroke-based GSC Engineering Group Ltd said the staff had to go because of the recession-hit construction industry.

The spokesman said: “There is no construction going in Bermuda right now except a few minor projects, the hospital and Waterloo House, both of which are nearing completion in the near future.

“Other than that, construction has ground to a halt. It’s very unfortunate, but a reflection of the times. We have to look at things very differently from how we did in the past.”

The ten Bermudians made redundant were five ­plumbers, two ­apprentices and three plumbers’ ­assistants.

The 12 non-Bermudian staff were a mix of plumbers and pipe-fitters.

The spokesman explained that the nature of contract work meant that, sooner or later, jobs would come to an end – and the firm’s hands were tied due to a lack of work elsewhere.

He said: “It’s construction work – it has to get finished and nobody expects to be on site for ever. You start and finish.”

The story of the layoffs was first reported by Tari Trott on ZBM.

At the peak of the hospital project, GSC had up to 58 workers on site, with 24 to 28 remaining on the job.

The spokesman added: “It’s a very tough economy. In the absence of major construction projects, it presents challenges for organisations of this size and scope to continue to meet obligations when they are due.

The troubled firm is currently locked in legal action with a creditor, Keen Ltd, which is pursuing an action for the winding up of GSC due to unpaid bills.

The spokesman said that major cash flow for the company, which includes an air-conditioning arm and a range of engineering services, came from product sales and large construction contracts – all of which had been hit by the recession.

He added: “Customers haven’t been paying their own bills. We have had challenges in collecting money owed by customers.” The spokesman declined to comment on the sums involved in the legal action, but said the firm was keen to work its way through its current problems.

He added: “We are certainly hopeful of that —  whether we’re able to achieve that remains to be seen.”