Leading specialist engineering and construction services company Keltbray has announced a programme of redundancies due to the economic impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Speaking on 10 June, chief operating officer Vince Corrigan looked back to the start of the COVID-19 epidemic.
“Through the initial lockdown period, the Keltbray Group continued delivery of its infrastructure projects in the essential rail and power sectors,” he said. “Most other projects in the built environment sectors were paused.”
He went on to explain that, although some 90 per cent of projects based in central London had now restarted, only some 50 to 60 per cent of its workforce was able to return to work.
“A fundamental change, particularly applicable to our Built Environment London projects, is the restrictions on the number of people physically being able to commute to and work on the sites because of the social distancing requirements,” he said.
Due to those restrictions, the productivity of those that were now working was anything up to 20 per cent down on where it should be.
One good piece of news was that the group’s infrastructure work had only been minimally affected, principally because of it being linear, therefore more open, and less physically constrained in its nature.
However, principally due to the problems on the Built Environment London projects, some 25 per cent of the directly employed workforce was still on furlough.
Six days later, chief executive officer Darren James revealed that things hadn’t improved. “The effects of the Covid19 pandemic continue to change our way of life in ways that were unforeseen only three months ago,” he said. “By furloughing a third of our workforce and introducing temporary salary reductions, we have protected jobs, whilst continuing to support the national effort. However, the ongoing impacts of the virus on the wider economy are unavoidable and we will need to go further to emerge stronger for the future.
“Therefore,” he added, “over the next few weeks, we will be consulting with UK-based employees across Keltbray on plans to create a more efficient business as part of our ongoing response to the crisis. The reality is that these proposals will result in a reduction in the number of roles in our support functions and in the Built Environment division in particular.
“We are therefore proposing to make 300 roles redundant over the coming months. There will be no impact in our infrastructure division, which continues to operate at near normal, pre-crisis levels.
“In taking this difficult action, we will match the size of our cost base to our predicted work volumes in our traditional building sectors, particularly in London. By ensuring we run our business in a lean and efficient way, incorporating productivity gains developed through our response to the pandemic, including the widespread adoption of mobile working, we will continue to provide high quality, high value services to our clients, and maintain our financial resilience to deliver our growth strategy as the markets recover.”
So, it looks as though the rail divisions – Keltbray Rail, Keltbray Rail Plant and Keltbray Aspire – will escape the axe this time. However, this action may just be the tip of a very unpleasant employment iceberg for the construction industry as a whole.