A Sunday lie-in in the Harbour City could become a thing of the past after the government flagged it’s considering extending construction hours to every day of the week in an effort to ease supply chain and staff shortage pressures.
NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts revealed the construction hours were under review to a room full of developers at the Property Council lunch yesterday.
“We understand the cost of materials, supply chain issues and employee shortages are impacting the construction industry, and they need to be addressed. One way to alleviate these impacts is to facilitate extended construction hours,” Roberts said.
At the moment, tradies can be on the job between 7am and 6pm on weekdays and 8am and 1pm on Saturdays, with tools down on Sunday and public holidays — though during the pandemic, these hours were extended to seven days a week in a bid to allow social distancing on site.
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That expired on Christmas Eve last year, though can be approved on a case-by-case development application basis — Roberts continued that he wants continuity “across all development types to facilitate extended construction hours on a permanent basis”.
But, he said, the government would be conscious “to ensure an agreed-upon approach supports the construction industry and balances the interests of the community”.
But Sydney residents were less than impressed with the idea on social media in the aftermath of Roberts’ comments.
“A thumbs down from me. I’m surrounded by it already, but the tradesmen need to have a break, and support their families,” Belinda Muller, a former teacher at Eden Marine High School said.
Indeed the construction industry employs more than 625,000 people across Australia — making it one of the biggest employers — and workers are more than twice as likely to suicide as other people in Australia, according to a report from MATES in Construction and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Further Engineers Australia found more than 20% of workers in the construction industry have had a mental health condition.
Kiama resident Jennifer Swann suggested the government support “TAFE and apprentices so we have more builders working normal hours”.
It comes amid a tumultuous time for the construction industry, with several high profile folds in the past year — Probuild collapsed with $5 billion in outstanding projects earlier this year, while last December BA Murphy, which left almost $11 million owed to contractors, and Privium, which had $24.6 million in total liabilities both went into administration.
CreditorWatch CEO Patrick Coghlan told SmartCompany big construction firms are the latest victim of the pandemic’s “triple threat”.
“You’ve got big supply chain delays because raw materials aren’t available, you’ve got material price increases which is either part of the supply chain issue or the result of inflation (and that’s where it can get really dangerous, is if a builder doesn’t quote properly as it can substantially blow out their margin) and three, there are a lot of project delays due to labour shortages from COVID-19,” he says.
Newbie Roberts has come under scrutiny in his new portfolio since taking the Planning reigns from Rob Stokes — one of his first moves was to bin the “design and place” policy which would’ve seen a raft of rules for greener and more sustainable land and housing development.
“Being Planning Minister, no one’s ever happy,” Roberts said in response.
“You’re either building, for some people, too many homes, or for other people not enough homes. What does success look like? Everyone’s a little bit unhappy. You’ve just got to accept that. It’s not my job to be liked.
“My job is to undertake what the premier’s instructed me to do.”