Construction industry warns against Brexit 'cliff edge' for EU workers

Posted On: 
29th November 2017

If there is one thing that the construction and house building sector can agree on, it’s that the next few years will bring unprecedented challenges to our industry, says FMB.

Nearly two thirds of construction SMEs tell us that they are struggling to recruit the carpenters and joiners they need to stay on top of their workloads, says FMB
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PA Images

The construction sector has therefore come together with one voice to warn the Government of the dangers of the industry facing a 'cliff edge' regarding access to EU workers.

The severity of the sector’s skills shortage is aptly demonstrated through the FMB’s State of Trade Survey Q3 2017. Nearly two thirds of construction SMEs tell us that they are struggling to recruit the carpenters and joiners they need to stay on top of their workloads. Bricklayers are almost as hard to come by with 59% struggling to find skilled tradespeople and 49% of SMEs are struggling to hire site managers. If we don’t have enough of the right people to complete the work, private and public projects could be stalled across the board.

In an unprecedented show of unity, seven of the construction industry’s major trade bodies have set out what they believe to be the sector’s responsibilities and requirements in a post-Brexit labour market. The ‘Construction Industry Brexit Manifesto’ commits the sector to doing much more to recruit and train additional UK workers to reduce its future reliance on migrant labour. However, it makes clear that this will not be able to happen overnight and that, for some time, there will likely remain an ongoing need for significant levels of skilled EU workers. 

The ‘Construction Industry Brexit Manifesto’ sets down the industry’s key messages to the Government on what it will need from a post-Brexit immigration system in order to be able to deliver the Government’s strategic objectives for new housing and infrastructure. These include the need for the Government to agree a transition period of at least two years as soon as possible, during which time EU workers arriving in the UK should continue to have a path to settled status and the need for the post-transitional migration system to be based on key occupations that are in short supply, rather than on arbitrary thresholds based on skill levels or income.

"The construction industry has been criticised in the past for being too disparate but it has come together her with one voice and set of clear messages", said Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders. He continued, "We know we need to step up as an industry and train more home-grown talent but we also have to be realistic about the future. There will continue to be some ongoing need for migrant workers and our post-Brexit migration rules will need to be fit for purpose."

Richard Beresford, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Builders, said "With the country facing a shortage of skilled workers and the most acute housing crisis in living memory, the Government needs to provide certainty to existing EU workers in the UK and enable construction SMEs to attract more home-grown talent into the industry."

The Manifesto comes with the support of seven major construction trade bodies: Federation of Master Builders, Association for Consultancy & Engineering, Build UK, Civil Engineering Contractors Association, Construction Products Association, Home Builders Federation, and National Federation of Builders.

You can read the full Construction Industry Brexit Manifesto here