The Prime Minister seemed to have given firm instructions when he told everyone to stay at home, work there if possible and not travel to work unless it was vital that they do so.
However, the message seems to have become a little confused in so far as it applies to people in the construction industry.
While many have been told to carry on working, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, reacted to criticism of packed tube trains by arguing that they would be less crowded if the Government closed building sites across London so that construction workers did not have to travel across the city.
He supported the decision taken by Transport for London (TfL) and Crossrail to bring all project sites “to a temporary Safe Stop” unless they need to continue for operational safety reasons.
London's Transport Commissioner, Mike Brown, said: “This is being done to ensure the safety of our construction and project teams and also to further reduce the number of people travelling on the public transport network. It is vital that the transport network is only used by critical workers.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said that the Government must work with trade unions to define the tougher isolation rules because they understand the reality of the workplace.
“Had the Government talked to us beforehand, for example, we would have been able to spell out to them how their new measures would be met by workers in construction and its supply chain,” he argued.
The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) also complained of mixed messages with chief executive Brian Berry, warning that hundreds of small builders face immediate lost earning, having to make their staff redundant and seeing their companies go to the wall.
“I am calling on the Government to tell my members, today, whether they can continue to go on site and work,” he said. “Small builders cannot work from home, but without cash grants available now, they risk seeing their livelihoods lost.”
Meanwhile, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has issued Site Operating Procedures which implement the Government’s social distancing recommendation. This document can be found http://www.constructionleadershipcouncil.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Site-Operating-Procedures-23-March-2020.pdf.
Last reviewed 25 March 2020