COVID-19: Construction industry stakeholders appeal to Govt to bring in foreign workers in a ‘controlled manner’

COVID-19: Construction industry stakeholders appeal to Govt to bring in foreign workers in a ‘controlled manner’

In a media release, the Construction Industry Joint Committee said tighter border measures have led to increased challenges in the built environment sector.

Foreign construction workers in Singapore
Workers at a construction site in Singapore on Sep 28, 2020. (File photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Stakeholders in Singapore’s construction industry on Monday (May 17) appealed to the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force to allow foreign workers to enter Singapore “in a safe and controlled manner”.

The Construction Industry Joint Committee (CIJC) said that the current manpower situation may result in further delays to construction projects and could cause jobs to be lost in the industry, and has asked the Government “to adopt a balanced approach and work with industry to allow the recruitment and inflow of foreign manpower”.

“With the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) issued on May 14, the built environment industry understands and supports the Government’s efforts to curb a resurgence of COVID-19 cases amidst the emergence of new virus variants in Singapore,” CIJC said in a media release.

“However, we have serious concerns about the acute manpower situation for the construction industry.”

Singapore has suspended entry for long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with recent travel history to India since Apr 24. This includes those who transit in India.

Those with recent travel history to Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have also been barred from entering or transiting in Singapore since May 2.

CIJC said that the shortage of manpower is leading to issues with workplace safety.

“The complexity and nature of construction work necessitates the deployment of workers from various trades, and the current reduced workforce is already working at maximum capacity, increasing the risks of workplace incidents,” it said.

“We are suffering from reduced productivity due to safe management measures at the worksites and many of our migrant workers plan to return home when their work permits expire.”

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CIJC said that existing delays to the construction of Housing and Development Board flats and private homes could be exacerbated by the closure of borders, while public infrastructure projects and maintenance works could also be affected.

Jobs in the industry could also be lost as a result, the committee said.

“The built environment sector consists of over 18,000 firms and hires tens of thousands of Singaporeans. These jobs are at stake, if there are further impacts to the sector,” CIJC said.

“The reality is that the industry needs sufficient inflow of migrant workers, both returning and new ones to take over the place of those who have left Singapore for various reasons, in order to sustain the industry and ensure that we can deliver on our projects.”

CIJC has offered to work with the Government to find a solution.

“We are prepared to work with the relevant agencies and stakeholders to establish a viable end-to-end system to bring in migrant workers in a safe and controlled manner so as to enable work to continue, while keeping Singaporeans safe,” it said.

The industry also hopes that the Government will consider additional relief measures for the built environment sector, CIJC added.

The key stakeholders in CIJC are the Association of Consulting Engineers Singapore, the Institution of Engineers Singapore, the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore, the Singapore Contractors Association Limited, the Singapore Green Building Council, the Singapore Institute of Architects, the Singapore Institute of Building Limited, the Singapore Institute of Surveyors and Valuers, and the Society of Project Managers Singapore.

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Source: CNA/kg(rw)

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