As the total number of cases across Canada climb over 7,000 at the time of writing, Canada like other countries around the world has started taking safety measures and precautions across public and private sectors.
The public has been told to limit their movement, self-quarantine, and practice social distancing to limit the speed or rate of spread. On the other hand, business sectors have begun shutting down or accessing work from home facilities where possible. A major economic implication of the shutdown is unemployment as many local, international, and multinational companies across various industries lay off employees or halt production, affecting thousands of jobs.
Besides medical facilities, utility or supermarkets, etc., there are not many businesses and industries as a whole that remain functional. Construction and contractor businesses are still in flux.
Many companies continue to operate around Canada, even in Ontario. Albeit, they have special precautions are undertaken that were published by local authorities, the Canadian government, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.
One of the main adjustments has been the implementation of the 2-metre rule where workers on-site have to maintain that distance at all times. On some sites, supervisors have mandated compartmentalization of the workers. They are isolated so that they can be on different sides of the building. More resources of hot water, soap, and sanitizers along with safety gear such as masks, suits, and gloves have been dispatched as well.
From the Workers’ Perspective
As many construction businesses halt productions across Ontario, there have been workers laid off given indefinite leave. From their perspective, there is a severe risk of facing economic damages in terms of expenses.
Despite the introduction of the benefits program for fighting employment issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are workers worried about debt. This has a bigger implication on the overall national economy and GDP.
Fearing homelessness, defaulting on mortgages, insurance coverage, and other financial aspects of their lives, many workers are choosing to continue working through the pandemic.
Facing such dire consequences, workers who are ultimately forced to work have been approaching the matter differently. In Ontario, the Carpenters’ Union and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades have demanded the closure of the construction industry as a response to COVID-19.
There has been name–calling, public requests, and petitions signed, etc., demanding the closure of businesses and stricter actions taken for the protection of workers. In a CBC article detailing the current goings in the construction industry in Ontario, it was mentioned that some workers have better working conditions as developers and contractors enforce necessary safety measures with stringent tracking.
What’s the Verdict
Currently, Toronto construction businesses are operating with somewhat normalcy. However, the inevitability of deadlines being pushed, some projects being delayed, and losses is approaching reality.
Besides a financial slump, unavailability or delay of the delivery of construction materials, inspections, efficient manpower, and labor disruptions are posing a risk to the entire industry. Countless residential and commercial projects will be affected along with the personal lives of the workers and developers involved.
For the post-pandemic period, coming back from this slump would also take its time. Delay periods even then would be unavoidable as companies would scurry to re-mobilize teams and bring back development to speed.
Until then, major shutdowns and possible strict lock-down is a possibility. As the situation around COVID-19 changes every day, experts in the construction industry continue to monitor the situation with a close eye.