Sadiq Khan has called for London construction sites to be closed down in the wake of the government’s effective coronavirus lockdown.
The mayor of London said he disagreed with the government’s ruling that construction sites could stay open and that it would be “very, very difficult” for those workers to follow social distancing instructions.
Khan and Transport for London (TfL) commissioner Mike Brown moved to suspend work on Crossrail and all TfL work sites today.
Boris Johnson announced new police-enforced restrictions last night. These will force people to stay home unless they have to buy basic necessities or seek medical help. People can also leave home to complete exercise once a day or if it is “absolutely necessary” that they have to go work.
However, the types of work that are considered “absolutely necessary” has not been made clear.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told the BBC today that “construction in the open air” could continue.
Khan told ITV this morning that he thought this was the wrong advice.
“If construction is there for a safety reason I think that’s critical and it should carry on,” he said.
“A lot of construction isn’t critical or essential. A lot of people that have been on a building site – I used to be a labourer and as mayor I visit building sites – it is so hard to be two metres apart.
“There’s other health and safety considerations those on site need to think about where they’re sending mixed messages.”
Scores of construction workers were seen this morning going to work at rush hour, contributing to overcrowding on some Tube lines.
Aslef, the biggest London Underground train drivers’ union, has said if overcrowding continues then too many of their members will get sick and public transport will stop.
Many construction workers have been forced to stay on, because they work on zero-hour contracts or are self-employed.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has yet to announce wage or revenue relief for this band of workers.
The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) today pleaded for more clarity from the government on whether work sites could stay open.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Our members want to do the right thing, but the advice coming from government is anything but clear.
“I am calling on the government to tell my members, today, whether they can continue to go on site and work.
“Small builders cannot work from home, but without cash grants available now, they risk seeing their livelihoods lost.”
The Prime Minister’s spokesman today sought to clarify the situation. “Construction should continue if can happen in a way that complies with PHE guidance, and practice safe social distancing on site,” he said.
“The industry has issued guidance itself onsite operating procedures through tjhe construction leadership council. Employers and employees should refer to that.”
He repeated advice to remain two metres apart from other workers at all times.