The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) is lacking 400 laborers, according to Northern District Commissioner John Caldwell.
While skilled laborers are essential, Caldwell explained that the department is struggling to hire unskilled workers because the hourly rate is not enticing enough to get people on board. In a recent interview on The Gallo Show, Caldwell stressed that it is crucial for MDOT to raise the wages for unskilled workers in order to fill vacant positions.
“The problem is, our 400 jobs that are available are at MDOT and we’re having a hard time filling them. That’s a big problem,” Caldwell said, “Those are the hardest ones to fill because we pay so little. We’re at about $11 an hour and everybody has us beat. So the unskilled laborers are really tough. We’ve got to get up to $14 or $15 an hour. You just can’t get anybody to get off the couch.”
Unskilled laborers are tasked with holding signs for upcoming road work, directing traffic, moving dead animals off the road, patching holes in the road, weedeating, and other tedious jobs that are necessary to upkeep Mississippi’s paths of travel.
Caldwell added that it is important to have these laborers because of the safety element of the job. It is dangerous for MDOT employees to perform road maintenance without someone holding a sign to notify drivers that work is being done ahead.
“We’ve had fatalities. We’ve had people that have lost limbs because there wasn’t anybody out there holding a sign,” Caldwell stated. “So somebody steps out to take some initiative. You don’t get those guys out there with the signs and we’ve paid the price.”
The commissioner noted that one of the biggest challenges he’s faced with hiring new personnel is the department’s requirement that all MDOT employees obtain a commercial driver’s license once hired. He says that the process of changing that requirement will have to go through the state personnel board or the legislature.
Watch the full interview with Commissioner Caldwell below.
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