Work’s long done but construction signs stay on duty

Work’s long done but construction signs stay on duty Construction is back, the cranes are up, the loom workers are marking samples and the drip-truck guys are stacking. A week ago the roads and…

Work’s long done but construction signs stay on duty

Work’s long done but construction signs stay on duty

Construction is back, the cranes are up, the loom workers are marking samples and the drip-truck guys are stacking. A week ago the roads and pavements were teeming with construction workers and it’s hard to think that even a week later, only a few hundred of them remain.

Even so, the residual signs are there, still carried on half-a-dozen construction sites around the city: nails, saws, doors, boiler faucets, basic windows and doors, railings, umbrellas, mobile homes, dinner dishes, garden trays, barrels and hay bales.

Construction workers are back on the job after the long Easter break. Photograph: Jon Henley for the Guardian

The employment law was changed in 2014 so workers can apply for the “temporary industry exemption” (TiE) to shorten the construction holiday entitlement for so-called work suspended for two months, an exception made to allow the construction industry to recover from the recession after the financial crash.

For builders and their unions who worked hard to encourage the move, this sort of holiday means staying in the country rather than travelling abroad, and for employers who are often short of skilled workers, it is a vital boost to their businesses.

The benefits are being felt in posts and shops, as much as in the fields, as City types keep the lights on, the salaries paid and the drivers on the road.

Construction bosses say they have suffered from a shortage of skilled workers. Photograph: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

But while you might expect seasonal workers to say: “Now that work is back, that was never going to happen”, most have continued to feel the economic slowdown and their jobs are not yet safe.

One hire-of-the-month for Fife makes 20 long-term annual contracts, but has actually only two permanent full-time staff, one installing the plastering and another running the electricians on site. “We really only employ two permanent people,” says the founder of the business, “and that’s down because we’ve signed a two-year contract so we’re doing exactly the same amount of work for the next two years.”

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