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Construction bosses fear ‘job-loss scenario’

Job losses in the construction sector are certain unless a steady flow of contracts is maintained after the Covid-19 crisis ends, the industry body warned yesterday.

Simon Tully and Will Irvine, of the Construction Association of Bermuda, said there were enough projects to last the industry for the rest of the year, but a lot of work scheduled later had been put on hold.

Mr Tully, the CAB president, said: “We have been contacted by a couple of architects and surveyors who have had clients tell them to stop working and not to put any more time in because their project is not going ahead.

“Beyond 12 to 14 months, there are projects that would have gone ahead that are now not going to. That is going to affect the level of employment in the workforce, but it's difficult to predict to what extent.”

Mr Irvine, the CAB executive director, added: “There will be a big rush to get back to work, but unless there's some continuity of work to pick up once those projects are completed, there will be a job-loss scenario.”

Mr Irvine said the construction association had contacted the Government to discuss how workers could safely return to job sites and how the industry can be supported.

He added the industry ground to a halt when the shelter-in place regulations came into force and the majority of the island's more than 2,000 construction workers were laid off.

Workers in related fields, such as technicians, tradesmen, craftsmen and machine operators, also found themselves out of work.

Mr Irvine said: “When there's no work, you can see why businesses would make that decision.”

He added that staff from the Department of Workforce Development had contacted the association to help laid-off workers get unemployment benefits as soon as the shelter-in-place order was announced.

Mr Irvine said that he did not see any reason why some construction workers could not return to the job site with suitable precautions soon after the shelter-in-place regulations were lifted.

He added construction sites would need hand-sanitiser stations, face-mask policies and social-distancing to protect workers.

Mr Irvine said permission would also be needed for related businesses, such as suppliers and transport companies, to open their doors as well.

But he added: “We are not asking them to fling the doors open and have everything flood in.”

Mr Tully highlighted Bierman's Concrete Products and cement manufacturer Maxcem as prime candidates to open their doors, at least to a limited extent, to get construction workers back to work.

Mr Irvine suggested a phased approach to reopening the industry to prevent a “stampede” and additional strain.

He predicted: “We are going to see a big influx of inspection requests, along with requests for building permits.

Mr Irvine said the planning department and other agencies had done a good job under remote-working restrictions.

He added: “They have worked very hard to make sure there is continuity throughout this, but the Government is going to need to support them as much as they can to get through whatever backlog there is.”

Difficult to predict: Will Irvine, executive director of the Construction Association of Bermuda (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published April 28, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 28, 2020 at 7:52 am)

Construction bosses fear ‘job-loss scenario’

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