March 25, 2020
While the question of the shutdown is more when, rather than if, preparations must be made for that eventuality and at present, those steps are not being taken. There is a strong misunderstanding amongst many trades that the general contractor has the authority to shut down the site. This is not the case. If a general were to arbitrarily, on its own, shutdown a site, they would be deprived of any protection under their contract in regards to delays and force majeure.
The financial impact of that would flow to the trades and in any scenario where we try to restart the industry, we would likely find that most companies had ceased operation or are unable to get workers or supplies. We can plan for this; we can put in place policies and laws to protect the industry in the face of a proposed shutdown.
Your organization, as part of the CDAO, submitted a major paper to the government asking for support for a province-wide definition of force majeure, along with further talks on how to manage any proposal to shut the province down.
Major infrastructure projects like hospitals cannot be shut down. They need to continue to be able to face the challenges of this epidemic. There needs to be a well thought out plan put in place on how we can move forward and protect the population and our workers.
Simply shutting down the construction industry will not be sufficient in addressing this pandemic. It needs to go further than that, but the longer we wait, the longer we delay in putting in place the mechanisms, tools and policies needed to protect this vital industry, the greater risk we run of not surviving.
Your organization and other construction associations, including many trade organizations, are still supporting the need to keep the industry open, along with implementing the appropriate health and safety protocols needed to keep our sites and our workers safe. We have offered our expertise to government and have asked for meetings. We have suggested there needs to be a regular conference call with the major representatives of the industry to discuss any and all suggestions, as well as discuss any policies or procedures various ministries intend to bring forward, for without this collaboration with the full industry and not with just certain special interests groups, mistakes will be made.
We, along with our 15 partners in the CDAO, have been working nonstop on these issues. We have been working with the Ministry of Labour, and with the IHSA to produce policies and procedures to protect our workers and improve things on our sites. We are pleased to see that many of these recommendations are being accepted at the staff level and are coming out as policy.
This demonstrates the value of the combined effort of industry associations who speak for the entire industry in being able to help the government make good decisions and move forward in a positive way. We look forward to expanding and improving that collaboration and cooperation in addressing these challenging times.
Members are reminded to continually check the OGCA website for updates on policies, best practices, opinions and news articles. Simply click here to receive the latest on COVID-19.
One thing we must all do is Keep Calm and Carry On, and remember that sometimes, laughter can be our best defence.