Unite Scotland welcomes ‘stronger’ construction sector COVID-19 guidance

Unite Scotland has today (7 April) welcomed the stronger guidance issued by the Scottish Government to construction firms during the COVID-19 pandemic, which clarifies what is essential works and in the event of construction sites ceasing work that workers’ pay must be protected.

The country’s leading construction trade union has been pressing the Scottish Government to adopt clearer guidance and tougher measures to ensure firms comply with government instruction and advice in relation to non-essential work, social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE).

The new Scottish Government guidance follows on from the First Minister’s comments that non-essential construction work should cease immediately following pressure from Unite. Unite has been heavily involved in discussions with the Scottish Government and the STUC where evidence has been provided on the continuance of non-essential works by construction firms and breaches of social distancing measures.

The new guidance makes clear that work on construction projects should cease unless it is supporting crucial work during the pandemic. Any project deemed essential can also only continue operating if it can comply with guidance on social distancing, safety and welfare during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Essential projects include:

  • 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 Scotland has further welcomed the Scottish Government stating that in the event of construction site closures the jobs and incomes of those workers must be supported. The trade union has also repeated its call that the Scottish Government follow the intention of the Welsh Government to legislate over social distancing. The Welsh Government plans to introduce legislation compelling all employers to make sure their workers keep two metres apart.

Pat Rafferty, Unite Scottish Secretary, said: “Unite Scotland has been working tirelessly during this COVID-19 crisis to ensure that construction workers and the public are protected. Crucial to this effort has been to get the Scottish Government to give stronger guidance on what constitutes essential and non-essential works. We welcome the new guidance issued which to a far greater degree provides this clarity and that there is a review process in place so if further measures are needed then they can be adopted swiftly. Importantly from Unite’s perspective, the Scottish Government have also stated that in the event where non-essential construction work ceases then those firms should do all that is humanly possible to make sure the jobs and incomes of those workers is protected.”

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