Photo by Josue Isai Ramos Figueroa on Unsplash
The socialist film-makers Reel News report that they have been “inundated with messages from construction workers, demanding their sites are shut down during the coronavirus crisis.
“Anyone who’s worked on a building site knows that social distancing is impossible due to the nature of the work – and this is being exacerbated by further unsafe and dangerous practices. Now sites are being forced to shut down through action inside and outside sites.”
See also this statement sent to us by the Blacklist Support Group, which organises among construction workers.
On 2 April, the Construction Leadership Council (a joint industry-and-government body) put out guidelines calling for the closure of all sites where social distancing is impossible, and then withdrew it within hours.
The Financial Times (2 April) estimates that about half of all construction companies are keeping their sites open. The Reel News website carries a series of reports from construction sites around the country.
After workers’ protests at the MGT site, building a biomass power station near Middlesbrough, only around 100 workers out of the 1,700 are left on site.
But of Britain’s 2.1 million construction workers, 86% are employed by (usually small) subcontractors or (40% of them) formally self-employed.
At the MGT site a big contractor, Balfour Beatty, has paid off 72 workers who were on fixed term contracts ending 30 March — although because off the Covid 19 virus there is still work for them to do on the site, and the company could easily have furloughed them and claimed government help to pay 80% of their wages. As well as shutting the sites, we need to demand pay for all the workers.
Reel News also reports on gentrifying housing project Anthology Hale in Haringey; Smulders yard, working on the foundations of offshore windfarms in Newcastle; Hinckley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset; Keady power station project near Scunthorpe; Affinity Living luxury flats in Manchester.
Also: EEW OSB, producing infrastructure for offshore wind turbines, also near Middlesborough; Henry Boots construction in Leicester; the Boohoo warehouse in Burnley; in Brighton, luxury flats and a Metropolitan College project licensed by the council; and the Hornsea 2 wind farm project near Grimsby.
The reports sent to Reel News highlight many construction bosses’ seemingly almost total indifference to workers’ and public health, which lies behind the Tories’ reluctance to do anything about closing construction. But also construction workers' struggle to defend themselves and for safety, often in very difficult circumstances.
Trade unionists and socialists should read them, circulate them and do what we can to support construction workers’ fight.