Unite Scotland construction members furious as Scottish government maintains green light to non-essential construction
- Friday 15 January 2021
Unite Scotland has today reacted with disbelief that non-essential construction works are set to continue following a review by the Scottish Government. This is despite the latest variant of the virus being up to 70 per cent more transmissible and a Scottish government published paper stating that Scotland's R number showed the virus was now "likely in another growth phase". Hundreds of construction workers continue to travel across Scotland potentially leading to cross-country infections.
In April 2020, after repeated concerns raised by Unite Scotland, the Scottish Government instructed companies not linked to essential services to close with immediate effect, and that in the event of construction sites ceasing work that workers’ pay must be protected.
Unite Scotland has been inundated by construction members in a state of fear for themselves and their families, fearful of catching the virus and equally fearful of losing their job and being plunged into poverty if they refuse to work. Unite Scotland is calling for the Scottish government to re-adopt its previous position based on the April 2020 criteria which permitted the following essential construction works:
those to create or repurpose facilities which will be used directly in COVID-19 related activities
projects to create or repurpose facilities which will be used to accommodate key workers, or free up space in facilities to be used directly in COVID-19 related activities
projects which are considered essential public services, the repair and maintenance of critical infrastructure.
Unite’s Regional Coordinating Officer Steve Dillon said: “Construction workers are crisscrossing the country, and even across the UK, on a daily basis. Unite has been inundated with concerns from construction workers that Covid measures on site are not adequate some with over 300 workers on them. Thousands of construction workers were furloughed during the first lockdown and construction was phased back in a managed step by step process. The present situation is very different from last April in that the sector is practically operating at 100% despite the new strain of the virus being far more transmissible.”
“The Scottish Government correctly instructed non-essential construction works to cease with immediate effect last April and they issued clear guidance on what constituted essential works. We are demanding that this position be re-established before we have a crisis in the making, if the new strain hasn’t already spread across construction sites. The Scottish Government must instruct all non-essential works to close and only permit emergency repairs in a domestic setting. Critically, they must ensure all construction workers have access to income protection and financial support regardless of their employment status.”