The construction world at times is bedevilled by negative talk by those both within and outside of the industry. Some of it is arguably justified, and some of it isn’t.
So who may be right and who may be wrong in their roles and criticisms?
Skilled labour shortages are an issue that at times pervade not only this industry but many others. In the construction context, at its extreme this problem has the potential to cripple the industry. The issue has the real potential to affect project quality, timeliness and efficiency, resulting in cost blow-outs and the potential for disputes to arise. The causes are multifaceted and complex, and much has been written about them. What I will say however is that the search for a solution or solutions is critical and one hopes this search will not be adversely affected by whoever ends up in government on or after July 2.
Workplace productivity is always a ‘current issue.’ Despite the increasingly diminished role unions play in the Australian workforce these days, the trend in working hours is in general on a downward slide for various reasons. If an employee or group of employees work fewer hours, the ‘gap’ may often need to be filled by the employer by, for example, the employment of further staff. This can result in increased costs in wages and associated costs.
Rising costs are always the subject of talk and it is a positive thing that the industry is not currently beset by multiple instances (or many instances at all) of strike activity. Of course, many of the regulatory requirements that businesses in general face can often result in increased costs, and this obviously applies here.
As it should be, safety in the building industry workplace is always being discussed – in particular ways to better protect and enhance safety whilst not sacrificing efficiency. That safety is a current issue is a good thing and is non-controversial. Building industry businesses’ concerns often centre around the often increased costs of compliance in this area, such as insurance premiums and the like. Legally speaking, there is a particularly high set of duties on any employer (and building occupiers among others) to take steps to provide a safe workplace. And in the construction industry there is at least the potential for higher numbers of injuries to occur.
Of course, there is constant talk about corruption and the potential return of the building industry watchdog, which is a large issue and is too detailed to get into here. In addition, the way the economy is tracking at any particular time has a big effect in this industry and this can flow on to the availability of finance, and lead to ‘capital constraints.’ Tax reform, employment law issues and often unwieldy planning approval processes are also key issues.
This is merely a snapshot of the ‘live’ issues currently faced by the construction or building industry. On a positive note, it can be said that we have a healthy building industry in Australia and there are plenty of opportunities and benefits for players within it.