CEWales E Bulletin September 2021

Whatever normal might be right now, we seem to be getting an awful lot of it. From supply, labour shortages mixed with domestic demand for builders and lack of lorry drivers, clear opportunities for the industry in energy improvement refurbishment – in the housing sector and every other building too – and muddled policymaking from the UK Government competing with clear sighted and radical ideas within Wales. Then on top of that we have weather akin to November and not late summer.

The retail and hospitality sector is displaying symptoms of declining resource resiliency and the issues on HGV driver labour market has so many of the characteristics of the construction industry, we really need to ensure the construction sector doesn’t fall victim to a failed labour model.

The overriding issue right now though is a shortage of materials. It is a mix of production, supply and logistics combined with Brexit delays. But the point is that it impacts site productivity. Customers from homeowners to big developers, councils to transport authorities are seeing projects either slow to a halt, or struggle to begin. There is even a six month wait for kitchen fit outs.

This leads to tension. Sometimes it’s over played in the media, but what we are hearing right now is that there are some very different trading expectations amongst clients and their suppliers. It is understandable that when things get tough people become nervous. There is a tendency to move risk onto one side or the other. That is wrong. It is a step backwards towards the bad old construction days of the 1990s when things were seriously adversarial and litigious. No one wins except the lawyers if risks are not shared and construction becomes combative and not collaborative.

Worryingly, we have heard rumours (which we are investigating) of public sector work being managed in a manner far from collaborative. Fingers might have been burned because of certain contracts going awry, but instead of obliging the supply chain to adhere to unfavourable contractual terms that do not foster a collaborative spirit all parties must work together to apply any lessons learned from mistakes.

That takes some courage. But it is the ethical and moral thing to do. Team work is the only way any one of us – no matter our position within the supply chain – can make a difference. Collaboration, not confrontation, will allow our industry to deliver projects on time and make 30% savings plus decarbonise and make a contribution towards the climate crisis. Adopting working methods that were outdated and plain wrong 30-years ago is a mistake.

One fundamental role for CEWales is to right those wrongs and stop them happening. That’s why we need to work together. Only as a team can we improve our industry and build a world class Wales. There are two ways that are easy to make that happen. Adhere to collaborative contacts and join CE Wales to ensure everyone pursues best practice and make it so.