R14.9 billion, over 110 000 construction jobs hang in the balance due to lockdown
CAPE TOWN – The Western Cape stands to lose more than 110 000 jobs and R14.9 billion in wages this year, due to the national lockdown brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Western Cape minister of finance and economic opportunities David Maynier said this week that it was vital that the entire construction industry be allowed to return to work as soon as possible.
Maynier call for an urgent review of the restrictions on the private sector construction is required if we are to avoid a collapse of the construction sector in South Africa. Notably the Western Cape has become the epicentre of the coronavirus, recording the highest number of positive infections.
Maynier said in a statement: “I have written a letter to Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, with an attached submission, requesting that under Alert Level 4 restrictions, construction be allowed to expand operations beyond public sector engineering and construction, to include commercial, industrial and private residential construction, together with construction by public entities, and to permit the upscaling of manufacturing of construction supplies beyond 50 per cent sector employment.
“These proposals incorporate aspects of the draft Alert Level 3 and 2 provisions – all of which we believe can safely be implemented immediately.
“It is estimated the impact on the construction sector of the Covid-19 pandemic could cost the Western Cape 111 416 direct and indirect jobs in 2020, and a loss of R14.9 billion in income to people employed in this sector.”
Allen Bodill, executive director of the Master Builders’ Association Western Cape (MBAWC) welcomed and commended this submission, especially given that the industry body had lobbied the Western Cape government on behalf of their membership to urgently recommence work on all projects that were active at the time of the lockdown, irrespective of the nature of the work.
Urgent call for reopening
The MBAWC is cautiously confident that the industry is prepared to return to work safely and maintains that the longer the industry remains dormant, the greater the financial losses will be for companies to bear.
“We have fielded innumerable desperate calls from industry workers, who have described their circumstances of real hardship, in not being able to purchase electricity or food,” said Bodill.
The performance of the UIF/TERS scheme has further exacerbated the plight of the construction staff who submitted claims to the fund. As at May 20 only 12.7 percent of them had been paid, 18 percent partially paid and 64.8 percent had not been paid anything at all, according to recently conducted a poll among MBAWC members.
“We have been working with the Building Industry Bargaining Council (BIBC) to identify the issues that members are challenged with, in the hope of finding solutions, but the situation has led to enormous anger and frustration,” said Bodill.
Millions of rand have been invested in projects that were in progress at the commencement of the lockdown and their stalled status has impacted the entire supply chain, from developers to contractors to subcontractors as well as suppliers.