Barrie Construction Association urges province to pass legislation to protect construction workers during COVID-19 outbreak

Council of Ontario Construction Associations warns failure to act could impact province's economy and employment

A letter addressed to Premier Doug Ford and several cabinet ministers including Infrastructure Minister Laurie Scott is calling on the province to pass legislation to protect construction workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The request is made in a letter from the Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA), a federation of 29 construction associations of which the Barrie Construction Association is a member.

The letter states the associations represent approximately 10,000 general and trade contractors that perform work in the industrial, commercial, institutional and heavy civil construction sector in all regions of Ontario.

COCA President Ian Cunningham states the pandemic is having a disruptive effect on the construction industry with delays in the supply chain for materials and equipment overseas, and is now entering a new phase where the pandemic is impacting the workforce.

COCA is calling on the province to pass similar legislation that reflects measures announced March 16 to protect Ontario workers who are unable to work because of the pandemic or pandemic response. In particular a bill that protects contractors and subcontractors from liability for project delays to the extent that they are caused directly or indirectly by the pandemic and pandemic response measures.

Cunningham notes the industry is already dealing with a shortage of skilled workers and it is entirely forseeable that additional disruptions in the workforce will result in project delays.

He writes that contractors and subcontractors are typically bound by contract to complete work according to fixed deadlines and missing a contractual deadline usually results in legal liabilities, with substantial financial damages for contractors and subcontractors.

The letter goes on about compensation that owners can claim such as lost rent and the cost of alternative accommodations for tenants, lost profit and more.

COCA emphasizes that most contractors and subcontractors are small businesses and they do not have deep pockets. The letter warns if the government doesn’t take steps to protect construction employers from the consequences of delay resulting from the pandemic, then many of the jobs that the government has moved to protect will disappear anyway.

Cunningham also issues a warning that if the government does not act, in the construction industry the economic impact of the pandemic will fall by default upon the shoulders of Ontario’s construction employers.

COCA suggests this will have a long term negative effect on Ontario’s economy and employment.