Frightened workers are calling for a government ban on unnecessary construction as they are forced to choose between their health and their payroll.
Unite Scotland leaders lagged after the Scottish government allowed such construction to continue last week despite the emergence of the new strain of Covid-19.
And Steve Dillon, the union’s construction coordinator, told The P&J the dangers became all too evident when a worker at a site in the northeast tested positive in the past few days.
He said, “There is currently a fight going on in the Northeast where a worker tested positive and sent home.
“But he was in the canteen with all the other workers who were ordered to work on it.
“They want to go home too, but if they are told that, they won’t get paid.”
The case was raised with the Scottish Government and Law Enforcement Authorities in the unspecified location.
Non-essential construction work was stopped at the first closure
Last April, all non-essential construction work was stopped by ministers when the pandemic first broke out.
Only projects in support of Covid efforts for other important public services and to maintain critical infrastructure were allowed to continue.
If rules similar to last April were put in place, home construction projects in the northeast and uplands, as well as multi-million pound projects like Aberdeen’s redevelopment of Union Terrace Gardens and the construction of Lossiemouth High School, would stall.
© Jason Hedges / DCT Media Construction at the new Lossiemouth High School in December.
Earlier this month, The P&J announced that improvement work on the roundabout in Haudagain, north Aberdeen, as well as a number of other key projects, including new hospitals, has been delayed.
But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stopped reintroducing these measures last week despite stopping workers entering private homes.
It comes, as the Scottish government said, the virus is now “likely to be in a different growth phase”.
Concerns about Covid measures on site are not sufficient
Mr. Dillon added: “Construction workers cross Scotland and even the UK every day.
“Unite has been inundated with concerns from construction workers that on-site Covid measures are inadequate, some with over 300 workers.
“Thousands of construction workers were on leave during the initial lockdown, and construction was phased back in a step-by-step process.
“The current situation is very different from last April as the sector is practically 100% operating, although the new strain of the virus is far more transmissible.”
He added: “Unite is demanding that all non-essential work be closed and that only emergency repairs be allowed in people’s homes.
“The Scottish Government rightly ordered the cessation of non-essential construction work with immediate effect last April and it has issued clear guidelines on essential work.
“We demand that this position be restored before a crisis looms when the new variety has not yet spread to the construction sites.”
The Scottish Government has developed guidelines with trade unions and trade organizations to ensure the safety of workers during construction and manufacture.
Minister of Housing Kevin Stewart said, “It is important that all workplaces continue to follow these guidelines and plan the minimum number of on-site people required to operate safely and effectively.
© DC Thomson MSP Kevin Stewart.
“Employers must carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment and pay particular attention to employees who are disproportionately at risk due to the underlying health conditions or the role they play. Only those who cannot do their work from home should be asked to contact the workplace. “
The Aberdeen Central MSP added, “If anyone has any concerns about their workplace or workplace, they should inform their local authority and the HSE.
“A single point of contact for union representatives has also been set up to explain how all Covid-19 workplace policies are being implemented.”