The Director General of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has said that the sector should be allowed to reopen on March 8, adding that “it has a proven safety track record”.

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During an interview on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland (10 February), Tom Parlon pointed out that the construction sector operated to very strict procedures with very strong directives to workers.

Up to 40% of the sector had remained open during the current lockdown for essential building and direct foreign investment projects, all of which were closely monitored with the HSE, he added.

Clusters had been kept off-site with fewer than 20 cases of Covid-19, he noted, adding that whatever happened off-site was not in the control of employers. “Construction sites are very safe places with workers and employees being very careful to observe all procedures, and these sites are safer than the community.”

CIF Director General Tom Parlon maintains there’s no reason why the sector cannot open on March 8, adding that there is “a very safe culture on site”.

However, the construction site safety claims by Tom Parlon have been described as “ludicrous” by Dublin South West TD Paul Murphy, who is member of the Oireachtas Committee responsible for Employment.

“This is like groundhog day. Just as the case numbers start to come down we have big business lobbyists pushing to reopen, and spouting all sorts of false claims to justify it,” Deputy Murphy said.

“It seems the major construction companies are happy to sacrifice workers health and safety. The simple fact is case numbers are currently stubbornly high, partly because many construction sites and companies that would have been closed in previous lockdowns have been let stay open this time around. The more people travelling around, working in large groups, the more the virus can spread.

“The government should follow a Zero Covid strategy, with proper supports for workers and small businesses, and we will be able to plot a course to a proper reopening like they have done in New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere.”