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Union calls for immediate closure of construction sites

It comes after criticism that the construction industry is not responding quickly enough to the ongoing Covid-19 emergency.
Mar 24th 2020, 11:14 AM 59,094 60

TRADE UNION UNITE has called for the closure of all construction sites to halt the spread of coronavirus. 

At an emergency meeting last night the union heard that social distancing measures can’t be maintained on sites during the current emergency and is now calling on the government to close construction sites throughout the country.

Unite said today that site closures should be subject to a wage compensation scheme and had also called for any wage compensation measures to be extended to so-called ‘bogus self-employed’ workers.

It comes amid criticism that the construction industry is not responding quickly enough to the ongoing situation. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie a number of construction workers have expressed concern that social distancing guidelines aren’t being followed. 

There are currently over 100,000 people involved in construction across Ireland. Workers have been instructed to continue coming in to work but to adhere to HSE guidelines. 

In a statement this morning, Unite’s Regional Officer for Construction Tom Fitzgerald said: “It has become increasingly clear to our members, who work on sites throughout the country, that adequate social distancing cannot be maintained either on site or, in many cases, when travelling to and from sites.”

Fitzgerald added that “construction workers are not only themselves susceptible to the spread of Covid-19, but are also at risk of bringing the virus back home to their families and communities, further increasing the strain on our health services.

He said: “Unite is concerned that, as the situation escalates, responsible employers may close site and find themselves effectively undercut by irresponsible employers whose sites remain open, putting workers and the general public at risk.

“It is unprecedented for workers to call for their place of employment to be closed, but our members feel they have no other option in light of the current public health emergency,” said Fitzgerald.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Brendan O’Sullivan, general secretary of the Builders and Allied Trades Union (BATU) said that the thousands of members who he represents have been told to minimise their contact as much as is possible, but that it remains a challenge. 

He said: “The HSE has issued guidelines to employers on how to control close contact between staff. We are listening to them. A lot of sites have already introduced measures to help reduce how often people are in close contact with each other.”

Construction Industry Federation, meanwhile, is urging construction workers to continue adhering to social distancing guidelines. 

Speaking this morning, CIF Director General Tom Parlon said these guidelines are “now critical to the continuation of the construction industry and for our nation.  

“We urge contractors and workers to work together to enforce social distancing regardless of any impacts on productivity or deadlines,” he said.

Parlon said the CIF is also asking companies to remind workers that social distancing is critical off-site and on the way to the site. 

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Cónal Thomas

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