It’s Thursday afternoon, 4pm, when I sit down to write this, exactly 67½ hours since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced additional measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic here in the UK and what a time it has been.
I write to you today – not with more legal content and government guidance – but as a fellow demolition professional who is also finding it difficult to adjust to our new lives.
Our people, and in that I include you and I, have had to adjust in a matter of days to the biggest changes in the way we live, work and play in modern history.
Whilst we have seen a quick response from the Government, other industry bodies and peers who have put in place all sorts of advice and guidance, including the introduction of the CLC Safe Operating Procedures, I am all too aware that more needs to be done.
We have spent the last few days gathering and disseminating information the moment it has become available to us to ensure that all of our members and the wider demolition community have the most up to date information and guidance.
In addition, this week we have lobbied hard with organisations such as CITB, Build UK and the Construction Leadership Council to make our case for the prioritisation of the health and safety of our people and the public both at work and at home, as well as that of contractual intricacies and payment terms.
We have sought further clarity regarding what is considered to be ‘essential’ works noting that the NFDC and its members will never accept Profit before People. It is paramount that our dialogue continues and as the next few days pass we will continue to share all relevant news and additional resources to help our Members and our People. Tomorrow you will receive the first round of these resources among other news that we await this evening.
We are all also eagerly awaiting confirmation from HMRC on the furlough arrangements set out by the Chancellor last Friday and we have made it clear in our feedback to Build UK that the lack of clarity on this process to date has the potential to have a significant cash flow impact for our members, putting livelihoods at risk.
While writing to you, I have just received confirmation of the suspension of levy collection from CITB for a period of 3 months following ours and others feedback stressing the financial strain levy collection may put upon our members over the next few months.
I am all too aware that all over the UK sites have been closed or reduced to a skeleton staff in an attempt to keep moving forward and that there are other sites where it has reportedly been business as usual.
We cannot judge from afar, but stress that if the sites remaining open cannot clearly follow the CLC Safe Operating Procedures as well as ensuring those travelling to and from work can do so safely, in line with government guidance, it is paramount that steps are taken to reduce or cease works until the situation changes.
And whilst the NFDC does not have the power to close demolition sites be assured that we are here to support you should you need assistance with making this position clear to your Client. A letter detailing that support will be with you tomorrow intended for such circumstances and this should be forwarded to your client in the first instance.
We know that there are demolition people across the land still going to work, travelling on public transport and nervously returning home to their families at the end of the day. In this unique situation it is paramount that these people receive the right support and understand their Right to Refuse Work. Further guidance will follow.
Having had many conversations with people in all roles in the demolition industry in the last few days it is devastating to hear even those who are usually the most calm and collected among us expressing their heartfelt feelings about decision-making in these seemingly impossible times. Honest people who are ‘keeping calm and carrying on’, to coin a phrase, are being vilified for doing so and this has to stop.
And finally the demolition community has been working hard not just to protect themselves and their workforce this week, but the NHS and other charities too. Your generosity even through adversity is truly special.
As we entered this period together, we will continue to experience this together and eventually will we come out of it together and although none of us know quite when or what that may look like I can only hope to see you all then.