“I have been a tech for over 10 years, but only make $11 an hour,” began one e-mail message. “If they don’t do something, they will find themselves with no one to run the calls.”

Another e-mail: “I get paid $10 an hour and this is with 12 years of experience. As you can imagine, it just plain stinks.”

Still another e-mail: “There are better trades out there that pay much better.”

Want to hear more?

Ever since our November 1 editorial, technicians have been sending messages daily to The News, expressing their anger regarding their respective salaries (or lack thereof). From this industry segment, at least, they agree with the notion suggested here that lack of good pay is a strong reason for the lack of hvacr technicians today.

“I am so tired of hearing from alleged ‘knowledgeable’ authorities, national surveys, etc., that job stability, health insurance, taking a truck home, etc., is more important than what they take home at the end of the week. Baloney!” wrote one general manager of a refrigeration service contractor in New Orleans.

Bleak picture?

As could be expected, the contractors in the crowd had difficulty with the message — especially the comment from one reader quoted in the editorial who stated, “There is no reason our field should not be paying $100,000 a year for 40 hours to qualified techs, top end.”

Most contractors responded to this in the same manner as did John Walter, vice president of William Walter Mechanical Contractors, Flint, MI: “Who’s he kidding? He can come to my town any day and open a company. I know I’ll get all the work because in order to pay his techs that rate, he’ll have to charge $150 an hour. Good luck!”

Salaries are definitely an issue. However, it is not the only issue. There seem to be just as many horror stories regarding poor working conditions, lack of professionalism, lack of benefits, lack of training, lack of career advancement, etc.

“I believe your editorial is only a part of the answer in reference to lack of pay,” wrote one reader, who did not want his name disclosed for fear of retaliation. “The working conditions are, many times, unbearable. Working in attics that are 120°F; being on a rooftop when it’s 10°, with a minus wind chill factor; working with high voltages and high pressures; moving parts that can take your hand or arm off in a moment’s time. . . . These conditions take a large toll on your health. By the time I’m 50 years old, I will have to get out of the field due to tendonitis and arthritis.”

According to Michael King of Epping, NH, “Contractors want one thing: profits for themselves. They supply no training and expect every tech to be knowledgeable about everything. They act like Monday morning quarterbacks.”

Enter our contest

If one were to consume only the comments received here lately, this paints a bleak picture of hvacr contractors in general. Of course, we firmly believe that’s not the case.

We know there is another side to this story. We know there are great contractors out there who go “above and beyond” to provide a friendly, secure, steady work environment that offers technicians the opportunity to grow through continuing education and career advancement.

We want those contractors to stand up and be counted.

To prove to techs (and the world) that not all hvacr contractors are penny-pinching grinches, The News hereby launches its first-ever Best Contractor To Work For Contest. An official entry form can be found on page 11.

We want contractors to tell us what they are doing right to keep employees happy:

In light of the current shortage of technicians, what has your company done differently to hire and retain techs? What do you do to avoid tech burnout during your company’s busy seasons? If you offer any childcare benefits, what are they? What kind of financial programs and assistance do you offer?

Lay it on the line(s) in the entry questionnaire. And if you need more space than is provided, feel free to supply answers on a separate sheet. (The more we know about you, the more we can determine if you are a great contractor to work for. Just remember that the entry deadline is December 31, 1999.)

The best contractors will be recognized and honored. The editorial staff of The News will examine all entries and select winners from the best. Those winners will receive a plaque and special recognition in the February 7, 2000 issue of The News, which will be distributed at the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Expo in Dallas, TX.

Are you a good contractor to work for? Prove it.