Mersey builders left in limbo by coronavirus confusion

Business leader says Liverpool city region construction firms are ‘caught between a rock and a hard place’ over whether they can continue working or down tools. Tony McDonough reports

worker, building, construction, skills
The Government has failed to offer clear guidance to construction firms, says Frank McKenna


Developers and construction firms across the Liverpool city region are being left in limbo by the lack of clarity on what constitutes a ‘key worker’ during the coronavirus lockdown.

Thousands of businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, have been given clear instructions to close down to help combat the spread of the virus. But the message to construction firms has been ambiguous, at best.

Frank McKenna, chief executive of Liverpool-based business lobbying organisation Downtown in Business is now calling on the Government to clarify whether the building trade should carry on or down tools.

Speaking ahead of a series of tele-conferences he has with senior decision makers this week Mr McKenna told LBN: “I am taking an increasing number of calls from leaders within the construction sector who feel as though they are caught between a rock and a hard place.

“On the one hand, they are being criticised by some senior politicians and members of the public for continuing to work. On the other, they are being pressured by their workforce, many of them self-employed, to carry on as normal.

“The confirmation that the self-employed will not receive any Government financial support until June will not detract from that pressure. Equally, there has been no consideration given to what happens should projects be abandoned without government instruction – would those companies be in breach of contract for example?

“There also needs to be a recognition that once a major site is mothballed, it can take several weeks to get it functioning to the same efficiency again.”

Mr McKenna added that those construction businesses who had contacted him were acutely aware of their health and safety responsibilities in respect of Coronavirus. He added: “The priority for companies is the health and wellbeing of their workforce.

“Nonetheless, there is uncertainty around what advice is being given around ‘key worker’ status and, of course, concerns around long-term reputational damage to those companies if more clarity isn’t provided by Government.

“I have to say, the Government have listened and reacted well to other sectors during this crisis. Hopefully, this week we can get construction on the PM and Chancellor’s agenda and have more comprehensive guidance from the top.”

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