COVID-19: the construction industry in uncertainty in the Outaouais

Uncertainty is being felt more and more in the construction industry in the Outaouais as the new coronavirus continues to gain ground.
The construction sites in progress continue their activities, but most of the time in slow motion. The fear of seeing the government being obliged to order the complete closure of the construction sites is palpable, but as long as the order does not come from above, the work will continue, say in unison the big entrepreneurs in construction contacted, Thursday, by Le Droit .

Prime Minister François Legault reiterated during his daily press briefing that nothing was excluded, but that there was no question of shutting down the construction industry for the time being. “The economy must continue to turn,” he said.

The leaders of Boless, Brigil, Junic and the Heafey Group all claim to have implemented strict measures on their respective sites to ensure the health and safety of workers. “We have prevention officers who walk around the construction sites and as soon as an employee presents doubtful symptoms, he is immediately sent home,” explains Denis Ouellette, president of Boless. Junic general manager Nicolas Tremblay adds that “no one will persist” with a worker who wishes to place himself in voluntary isolation. “We respect all health and safety standards, we have significantly increased our cleaning measures, we are doing much more than what is required to ensure the health of our workers,” he adds.

Site in slow motion

The work on most sites, however, is a little more chaotic than normal, explain the entrepreneurs. For example, about a third of workers at the Agora site in the Plateau were missing on Thursday morning, notes Tremblay. “We have to adapt, but that doesn’t stop us from continuing to move forward.”

Boless also works in reduced numbers on a residential site of 100 housing units on Montcalm Street. “Many are in solitary confinement because they have returned from their trip,” explains Mr. Ouellette. We had to have ten electricians on the site today and there are only three. It is certain that it causes a domino effect on the rest of things. The guys who were scheduled to lay gypsum in a few days will likely be delayed. ” Boless also planned to pour a concrete slab this week on the work in progress at 60, rue Laval. “I do not know if we will go ahead with this, we will wait a few hours to see what is happening,” added the boss of the company.

Millions of dollars at stake

Le porte-parole de l’Association de la construction du Québec (ACQ), Guillaume Houle, affirme que si les autorités devaient ordonner la fermeture des chantiers dans la province, l’industrie se plierait évidemment à la demande. «Nous ne croyons pas, cependant, qu’il soit nécessaire d’en arriver là, dit-il. Les mesures de protection ont été accrues sur les chantiers. Tout n’est pas parfait, les entrepreneurs doivent s’adapter, mais ça se fait.»

The ACQ specifies that during the strike in the construction industry in 2017, losses in the Quebec economy were around $ 45 million per day. “After a record year, we can believe that the size of these losses in 2020 would be even greater,” says Houle. I am not sure that closing the sites would be a good decision. We have the means to prevent contagion on our construction sites, but the industry must be able to continue to support the economy that badly needs it. ”

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