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This was published 11 months ago
Builders have warned projects worth up to a combined $6 billion have ground to a halt in Sydney as thousands of construction workers from eight council areas across the city’s western suburbs remain under strict lockdown.
More than 70,000 workers and tradespeople in COVID-19 hotspots from Parramatta to Campbelltown cannot attend work despite the NSW government lifting its two-week ban on some building sites over the weekend.
Building projects in western Sydney remain shut down due to the state’s coronavirus crisis. Credit:Nick Moir
Master Builders Association executive director Brian Seidler estimated work on projects worth a combined $5 billion to $6 billion had stopped in those areas where the construction ban still applied, including Fairfield, Liverpool, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Blacktown, Parramatta, Georges River and Campbelltown.
“We’ve got some real, real problems, particularly in the commercial sector. I think there’s a bit of desperation starting to seep into a resilient industry. I think we’re going to hit the wall within two weeks,” Mr Seidler said.
It’s a further blow to the state’s multibillion-dollar construction industry, which had argued the snap shutdown to halt the spread of the Delta variant would hurt more than a quarter of a million workers and cost the NSW economy $1.4 billion.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday said health authorities would consider vaccination rates among industries in determining when employees could return to work as she encouraged western Sydney residents to get jabbed.
Residents and workplaces across eight local government areas, from Parramatta to Campbelltown, have ground to a halt.Credit:Wolter Peeters
The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union’s NSW secretary Darren Greenfield said the inability of 70,000 to 80,000 workers in the south-west to attend jobs meant some building sites were operating with 15 to 40 per cent of their workforce.
He said all major construction projects were “massively affected” even though some restrictions had been eased, and building sites for infrastructure and hospitals had reopened this week with “15, 20, 30 per cent of workers”.
“The majority of our workers are from western Sydney and south-west Sydney,” Mr Greenfield said.
“A lot of sites haven’t been able to reopen, they don’t have the manpower. It’s going to be disastrous for our industry, it will bring it to its knees.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian encouraged workers to get vaccinated as it would give the government more options. Credit:Nick Moir
Mr Seidler said workers from the areas made up about 30 per cent of the workforce and supplied about 30 per cent of so-called “critical path trades” essential to construction of major projects throughout Greater Sydney.
“You might have a building project on the north shore but your concreters live in Parramatta and Fairfield. It has a direct impact across the industry,” he said.
Ms Berejiklian emphasised construction workers, and other critical workers, in those eight local government areas who wanted to get back to their jobs should get vaccinated.
“Government has many more options when we see high rates of vaccination in those communities … That gives us more options in terms of supporting industry,” she said.
“Industry has been positive in standing up and trying to encourage workers to get vaccinated and we’re looking to work with industry even more closely moving forward on ensuring that workers get the vaccines.”
When asked whether the government would consider allowing vaccinated workers in those eight council areas to leave for work, Ms Berejiklian said:
“We’ll be looking at the number of cases and the vaccination rates in cohorts of workers and in categories of people who we want to provide more freedom to.”
Mr Greenfield said the industry had managed the risks of COVID-19 for months through measures such as separating workers, regular testing, using QR codes, and providing extra on-site amenities.
He is pushing for building industry employees to be added to the state’s list of authorised workers who are allowed to leave their area for work.
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