Monday May 11 2020, 12.01am BST, The Times
Big state infrastructure projects should be brought forward to help the building industry get back on its feet, a body representing the sector has said.
The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has said the government should “bring forward preparatory works on critical infrastructure” set out in the National Development Plan and Project Ireland 2040.
Construction workers are allowed to return to work on May 18. Tom Parlon, director general of the CIF, said: “The construction industry has a vital role in driving Ireland’s economic recovery by getting people back to work and delivering the housing and infrastructure this country requires to move forward through this pandemic.”
A survey carried out by the CIF among 360 of its members found that two thirds of firms have laid off staff, while construction professionals expect it to take 12 months for the industry to return to pre-pandemic levels.
The survey also found that the main impact of the pandemic will be on turnover and cashflow, while it will also cause problems with supply chains for building materials.
Mr Parlon said 100,000 construction workers have lost their jobs, either permanently or temporarily, since the lockdown began.
“As the first sector to be allowed back to work, it’s critical that the construction industry can remobilise quickly so it can begin to benefit the wider economy,” he said, adding that the pandemic had a left a “deep scar”.
“We’re heartened by the government’s commitment to maintain strong investment in public infrastructure such as roads, schools, rail, hospitals, housing and other vital societal construction,” he said.
Mr Parlon said that, as well bringing forward work on big state infrastructure projects, the government should “accelerate” house building, both public and private.
More than half — 55 per cent — of organisations surveyed have availed of government grants such as the wage scheme to get through the lockdown.
Mr Parlon said: “This survey shows the struggles that the construction industry faces. From cashflow issues and legal disputes to productivity challenges, the industry will need time to adjust and recover.
“Despite this, the construction industry has been preparing for a month and next week companies will be carrying out site safety assessments to ‘Covid proof’ construction sites around the country to prepare for a gradual return to work.”
Construction companies are planning steps such as staggering working times for employees, having workers wear masks, have them work in smaller groups and at a distance from each other, and taking their temperature before a shift.
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