THE Irish construction industry is unique in being the only construction industry in the EU completely shutdown due to Covid-19.
A CIF survey shows how challenged the industry will be to remobilise after sites reopen on May 18, with many companies expecting to be operating at a sub-optimally for at least 12 months.
Director General Tom Parlon said: “Construction companies have seen 100,000 of their workers lose the jobs in the past month.
“This survey lays bare the impact of Covid-19 on the construction industry. 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.
“However, the pandemic has left a deep scar that our members think will take at least 12 months before they recover fully.
“The government has made significant efforts to support businesses which are to be lauded. 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.”
To maximise the positive impact of a fully operational construction industry will have on the wider economy the Government should:
Provide flexibility to state bodies to enable them to collaborate with contractors on public sector projects in sharing the burden of implementing Covid-19 safety measures (this will help avoid costly dispute and delays between the State and industries).
Accelerate house-building (both social and private) delivery through a suite of measures.
Bring forward preparatory works on critical infrastructure as set out in the NDP and Project Ireland 2040.
According to the survey, 71% of construction professionals are very concerned about the impact of the pandemic. Projected revenues are difficult to project, but 93% are certain that this pandemic will have an impact.
Only 2% will expect to escape any consequences.
More than 50% of those surveyed (52%), will expect the results to be dire. One fifth (20%), expect the pandemic to hit their bottom line by 40% with the majority (32%), expecting this figure to be in and around 30% — almost a third.
While it is a small percentage, 1% of the industry have managed to hire during the lockdown. However, as expected, 67% have been forced to lay off staff on a permanent or temporary basis. 19% are monitoring the situation and we hope some of these layoffs will be reversed from May 18 onwards.
55% of organisations have availed of government grants with the wage scheme topping the list at 81%.
While much of the industry focus has been on the negative consequences of the pandemic (being layoffs), many construction companies have felt the repercussions financially (turnover and cashflow) and will expect to see an increase in logistical issues in securing materials from the supply chain.
Mr Parlon added: “This survey shows the struggles that the construction industry faces.
“From cash flow 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.
“This will involve putting in place extra hygiene facilities, adding safety modifications on sites and carrying out essential maintenance.
“We thank the 75,000 construction employees who have completed the online safety inductions on Covid-19 and we encourage the remainder of employees who aren’t working from home to do so this week.
“Equally, thousands of construction companies have adopted the CIF’s new safety operating procedures in preparation of a return to work.
“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.
“I’m very proud that we are taking the steps to reopen our economy together and I working collaboratively with the government, our clients, employees and the public, we can adapt and safely rebuild the economy.”
The Construction Industry Federation, launched this survey in April and received 360 responses
The CIF is the Irish construction industry’s representative body.
It provides a broad range of services that assist members in navigating the political, business, economic and regulatory environment.
These services cross the full business spectrum and include Recruitment and Training, Legal and Industrial Relations Consultation and Advice; Health & Safety; Marketing and Industrial Intelligence Reports; Engagement with Government, Statutory and other industry bodies, and regular updates on all issues affecting the construction industry.
All services are provided on a national and regional basis from offices in Cork, Dublin and Galway.