Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Construction Holiday

Coming to Montreal there was one aspect of work that was pretty interesting. The last two full weeks of July are the Construction Holiday here in Quebec. Everyone from architects to welders to foremen to even engineers take that time off. They all flee the city to fill up already congested vacation spots inside the provence and abroad.

This has been an interesting change for me. Back in Chicago like everywhere else in every other profession, people are alloted two or more weeks of vacation to use when they please. People take the time at any time during the year. My habit was to take a day or two at a time or at most take a week during Xmas (usually to come to Montreal). Also, everyone is usually alloted sick time which can either be 'use it or lose it' or get paid out at years end for unused time. My old office was the latter so it was a bit of a bonus for myself around Xmas for not getting sick or at least not formally using sick days.

So when I came up for interviews I was told about the holiday schedule. There were a handful of Canadian holidays which half the time would not be the same day as a US holiday. The office I work at said they took four days off for Easter, Lord knows why. But the winter and summer holidays were different. The office actually shuts down for two weeks surrounding Xmas and New Years. How it works is that there are four holidays (Xmas eve, Xmas, New Years Eve, and New Years) during that stretch. You are also alloted six sick days during the year. You are to apply the unused days toward the remaining six days. Any missing time should be made up with overtime. I could gripe that it is forced time off, but it's like getting an extra two weeks of vacation.

As I mentioned, construction comes to a halt for these two weeks during the summer. Offices shut down and heavy equipment is quiet during the two weeks during the year that the almighty buck would say is the best to complete work. Sunshine, less rain. Heat, no snow or freezing temps. Didn't make sense. Must have been created by a union. Again it's forced time off without the choice of when you can take it, but it is nice to be forced to take it all at once. It is quite different than the extended weekends we used to take.

But it's a weird thing when EVERYONE at the office goes on vacation for two weeks twice a year. There is no shifting of responsibilities to cover for people's absense. Clients don't gripe that you're not there. And unless there is some real (life threatening) emergency, you are assured not to get any nagging phone calls. We all celebrate the last day before, share what we are going to do, and have such a peace of mind that it is a real vacation. No nagging guilt can be perceived.

We are now five days into the sixteen days off and it is quite relaxing. No big get-away plans. No major projects. Just hanging out doing knick-knack things around the house and enjoying the family. Pretty fricken cool.


Anonymous said...

Well, since the summer only last 2-3 months here, if there were no official vacation, I guess no construction workers will ever benefit from the summer...

This said, I'm really happy not working in the construction and take my vacations before or after these 2 overcrowded weeks ! :)

Anonymous said...

I've always held the opinion that Canada is just like the US, only better. :-)

This is yet another reason why.

Mr Ben Knope said...

Thankss for this blog post