Construction sector working together during crisis

17/03/2020
Dominic Browne

Two of the largest construction sector bodies have released a joint statement and initial action plan in response to COVID-19, suggesting it is likely that 'business critical' construction projects will be closed soon.

Build UK and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) said they would also be issuing further research on the impact to construction projects, as it warned that the impact of the virus on its sector could be 'catastrophic and unavoidable'.

The joint statement read: 'Whilst the priority last week was to keep business critical construction projects open and operational wherever possible, that is likely to change in the weeks ahead.

'If the Government decides to put the country into 'lockdown' and restrict the movement of British citizens, decisions will be taken out of the hands of individual companies and sites may have to close. The impact on the industry's supply chain, consisting of multiple layers of businesses, many of them of SME's with a significant amount of self-employed workers, will be catastrophic and unavoidable.'

In the next few days, the two groups will be:

a) Providing information on Force Majeure and other contractual clauses for the whole supply chain.

b) Calling on the public sector to provide clarity on each of its construction contracts.

  • In particular on the contractual position regarding delays as a result of the Coronavirus Covid-19.

c) Talking to private sector clients urging them to take a similar stance.

d) Asking Government to:

  • Identify safety critical work on the infrastructure network that is essential and must be continued and to confirm arrangements and prompt payment for this work.
  • Confirm support available to employers to retain essential skills

e) Asking members to:

  • Set up clear communication channels to all suppliers on their contracts and projects and provide regular updates
  • Ensure payments to their supply chain are up to date
  • Clarify the position over suspension of any works
  • Identify if any activities can continue remotely or be brought forward
  • Ensure projects are ready to recommence work as soon as possible

f) Working with CITB to maintain continuity for all apprentices

The statement added that member organisations were already:

  1. Increasing welfare and hygiene facilities and protecting the workforce.
  2. Liaising with clients on contingency arrangements.
  3. Reviewing contractual arrangements to understand options now and in the future.
  4. Liaising with funders and banks to secure sufficient credit.
  5. Contacting HMRC on 0800 0159 559 to discuss arrangements for delaying payment of taxes.
  6. Setting up project specific communication networks with their supply chains.
  7. Reviewing safety critical elements of their projects.
  8. Reviewing programmes.
  9. Ensuring remote access is in place.
  10. Offering those with the ability to work from home to do so.
  11. Protecting business critical functions such as payroll and accounts departments.
  12. Splitting teams to avoid everyone becoming ill at the same time.
  13. Reducing contact between leadership teams.
  14. Cancelling or moving meetings and overseas travel to conference calls or online meetings. 
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