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Construction industry needs ‘a signal’ that sites will reopen as workers seek work abroad 


Tom Parlon, Director General of the Construction Industry Federation.

Tom Parlon, Director General of the Construction Industry Federation.

Tom Parlon, Director General of the Construction Industry Federation.

Construction of up to 10,000 houses could be impacted by construction work stoppages due to Covid-19 restrictions, it emerged today. 

Tom Parlon, Director General of the Construction Industry Federation said that “the danger is with sites being closed down for 13 or 14 weeks, it is going to be slower to get things back up and running. There is a danger we could lose out on 10,000 houses.”

"So that is going to extend the housing crisis,” he said, adding the impact could be felt through the rest of this year, next year and beyond.

He has today appealed to the Government to give the sector a signal before April 5 that construction will open up again, as more workers are travelling abroad to gain work on building sites abroad.
“When we talk about houses being built, that is 5,000 or 6,000 couples that had secured mortgages, were prepared to move in."

He said this had all now been put on ice. “Likewise the banks have limited their mortgage approval to six months, so it means some of the people that had gone through all the hoops and had qualified now are finding that mortgage approval is being withdrawn because their houses are not being built.”

Mr Parlon told RTE’s This Week RTE Radio 1 programme it was causing a lot of “societal upset.”

While construction work has been continuing on more than 350 social housing projects across the country, Covid restrictions have halted around 60pc of construction work this year.

The construction sector was shut down under Level 5 on January 8, with exceptions for essential health projects, social housing, essential housing adaptations, repair and maintenance of critical infrastructure, education facilities, certain large projects in the export/FDI sector and essential works in private homes.

"The HSE have been monitoring workplaces and in particular construction since last September and the amount of outbreaks in construction is negligible. Since Christmas, with about 40pc of the industry back working, there has been very, very low rates," Mr Parlon said.

“We have very good standard operating procedures. It is largely outdoors and there is a young workforce.

"We have met with some of the people from the HSE and Nphet (National Public Health Emergency Team) last week to outline again the statistics that are there.”

He said that there has been a massive investment in extra vans and extra facilities for people to get to work. “What’s really frustrating and a number of contractors, a number of my members have been on to me saying, having invested last year in the extra transportation for their workers to get there safely, they are closed down now and those vans costing a lot of money and sitting in yards idle.”

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The reopening up of construction would bring around an extra 40,000 workers back to work. He said that some are leaving to work abroad with the current uncertainty around a return to work.

"I would be appealing to the Government to give us a signal very soon, before April 5 that we are going to be back, because the uncertainty is causing people to choose to leave the country and look for work elsewhere”

"They have been out of work for the last 13 or 14 weeks. They are used to earning good wages, they are used to putting in big hours and working hard.

He added that right across the continent, “building sites are flying.”

As part of its plan out of lockdown, cabinet ministers will be reviewing restrictions in the coming week.

It is understood they are hoping to reopen construction sites as part of a phased return, with the building of public and private homes set to return first on April 5.

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