A representative trade union for general workers has called for construction sites to be closed to limit the spready of the coronavirus.
nite’s National Construction Branch held last an emergency online meeting last night, where it was decided that adequate social distancing measures cannot be maintained on sites during the current COVID-19 emergency.
The trade union has called on the Government to close construction sites throughout the country, subject to a wage compensation scheme such as that proposed by ICTU.
The meeting also called for any wage compensation measures to be extended to so-called ‘bogus self-employed’ workers, to whom a presumption of employment should apply.
Commenting this morning, Unite’s Regional Officer for Construction Tom Fitzgerald said that reports from members indicated that proper social distancing is not, and realistically can not, be observed on construction sites.
“It has become increasingly clear to our members, who work on sites throughout the country, that adequate social distancing cannot be maintained either on site or, in many cases, when travelling to and from sites.
“The result is that approximately 150,000 construction workers are not only themselves susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, but are also at risk of bringing the virus back home to their families and communities – further increasing the strain on our health services.
“Last night’s online meeting of the National Construction Branch, attended by senior reps with hundreds of years’ experience between them, heard numerous concrete example of where social distancing cannot be maintained.”
Mr Fitzgerald said that those attempting to follow the guidelines, are put at risk by “irresponsible” employers who whose sites remain open.
“Unite is concerned that, as the situation escalates, responsible employers may close site and find themselves effectively undercut by irresponsible employers whose sites remain open, putting workers and the general public at risk,” he said.
“We are therefore calling on the Government to immediately close all sites, and to ensure that all construction workers – including so-called ‘bogus self-employed’ workers in sub-contracting chains – are included in a wage compensation scheme such as that proposed by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
“This virus does not distinguish between workers on different types of contracts, and neither should the Government’s response: all workers on a site must be presumed to be employed. No worker should be forced to choose between health or hardship.”
“It is unprecedented for workers to call for their place of employment to be closed, but our members feel they have no other option in light of the current public health emergency,” Mr Fitzgerald concluded.