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Mates in construction look after each other in tough times

Michael Chesterman
Michael Chesterman June 29, 2020

In a special taskforce report investigating subcontractor non-payment in the Queensland building industry, it is stated:

“The industry is the third largest employer in Queensland, employing more than 230,000 Queenslanders and contributing approximately $46 billion to the state economy in 2017–18.”

How many of those 230,000 people would be feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed because of the unfolding COVID-19 induced recession?

While I have no data to refer to, I think it would be the majority.

If I am right, then those of us who for business or work purposes, communicate with these 230,000 Queenslanders, I believe should reappraise the way we do so during these extremely challenging times.

I draw no distinctions in this regard. These people could be clients, fellow contractors, licensees, or government registrants of some type.

I think we should all spare a moment to think about how tough many of these people would be finding life right now.

I purposely repeat below what I just said above.

I think it is incumbent on all individuals, businesses, or government organisations who in any way have dealings with these 230,000 people to redesign their communications strategies with them.

I am of the view that communication with these people should be couched in an empathetic manner. If you are a business or government organisation, you can still meet objectives, but at the same time be human in doing so.

Why does all this matter?

Quite simply, it could be a matter of someone living or dying.

We already know that the industry has a major suicide problem.

Mates in Construction (Mates) is a charity established in 2008 to reduce the high level of suicide among Australian construction workers.

Mates provides suicide prevention through community development programs on sites, and by supporting workers in need through case management and a 24/7 helpline.

According to Mates:

“Every year 190 Australians working in the construction industry take their own lives; this means we lose a construction worker every second day to suicide.

Construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than an accident at work. For our young workers, the facts are that they are well over two times more likely to take their own lives than other young Australian men.”

For the foreseeable future, times will be extremely tough. Industry parties will be under enormous pressures.

1. Insolvency will be a major concern.

In an article entitled Economy in recession will cause major insolvency issues for the construction industry, I outlined my concerns in this regard.

2. Regulation obligations are not going away.

At the time of publishing this article, I am of the view that regulation of the industry will largely remain as it was before COVID-19.

In the case of builders, a government website outlines in great detail all the regulatory requirements that a builder may have to comply with or have regard to in the delivery of a project to a client.

The weight of issues is demonstrated below:

I will focus on one category, namely the licences and permits a builder may have to obtain or require subcontractors to have, in the delivery of a project.

Licences and permits.

Queensland has one of the highest obligations throughout the world for the attainment of licenses and permits to operate in the construction industry.

There are over 100,000 individuals and companies licensed by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Let’s talk about Mates.

With all of this weight on the shoulders of our industry, it is now more important than ever, that we shine a spotlight on the work of Mates.  As part of our Helix Essential Series, on 1 July at 4:00 pm, I will be joined by Jorgen Gullestrup, CEO of Mates in Construction, to discuss the importance of, and to raise awareness of, mental health in the industry.

Thousands of Queenslanders working in the industry will be doing it tough right now. I think we all must help our Mates.

I cannot think of a more important conversation to be had in these challenging times.

Not intended as legal advice. Read full disclaimer.
Michael Chesterman
Michael Chesterman June 29, 2020

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