Thursday, 18 January 2018

'Construction News' on a quiet site today

A GROUP of birds are flying around three Carillion cranes which stand abandoned on a site in central London.

One hovers and eventually lands on top of the middle crane’s arm. The cab appears empty. After a while, the bird flies off. I wonder whether this is the most action the site has seen all week.
I ask the site’s security team, who seems to be closely monitoring who’s going in and out of the site office, whether work is ongoing. He replies, with a bitter laugh: 'No way man.  There’s been no work on here for days.'

One construction worker, working on a separate project over the road, tells me the site has been left empty for days.  “We haven’t seen anything happening since the beginning of the week.  It’s a mess.'

It’s a similar scenario in Carillion’s offices in London.  I went to see if the contractor could provide any answers, any information at all, about the chaos and confusion that has erupted following Monday’s announcement.

Surprisingly, a handful of people were still working. But the fact that a journalist can walk unannounced into the offices of a business that has suffered such a high-profile liquidation says it all.
People seem at a loss of what to do. I wander round the empty kitchen and communal workspaces.  It feels like I am standing on the decks of a sinking ship.

I walk up to reception. Is there anyone who can help with media enquiries, I ask. 'No,' replies one receptionist.  'There’s no one.'

This summarises perfectly the situation in which hundreds of thousands of people have found themselves following the contractor’s collapse.

Carillion’s 19,500 UK workers have been told they will be paid until the end of January, but what happens after this is unknown.

Tens of thousands of subcontractors have been left in the dark about whether they will see any of the money they are due – or what will happen to their retentions.

In some cases, it can be easy to forget the impact a business can have on its workforce, stakeholders and suppliers. But in the case of Carillion, the human impact has dominated.
One Carillion pensioner says he thinks his pension may be cut by 10 per cent following the collapse. He raises an interesting point about how the auditing system has failed throughout this whole catastrophe.

'Senior people have been paid a lot since they have left the company. And yes, I think my pension will be cut by 10 per cent, but the story will come out in the wash,” he says. 'The key point is that we, the public, government, investors – everyone – should be able to rely on the audit process.'

He says it would be “ludicrous to think that these losses were accrued between the audit in December 2016 to the audits during the summer of 2017'

'Instead, these losses will have been accrued over a number of years,” he continues. “We rely on the auditors – who should be holding the company’s feet to the fire and weren’t.'

Despite the impact Carillion’s demise will have on him, he is refreshingly optimistic.
Instead of bearing resentment, he says the focus should be looking forward to how the industry can learn from these catastrophic mistakes and make sure they won’t happen again.

His comments are an example of the resilience of those who have or are working in such a volatile industry as construction. Support shown for others is sometimes astounding in times of real trouble. Never before has this been demonstrated so clearly than in the past few days.

Construction firms have been reaching out to those affected by Carillion’s demise, offering opportunities to discuss careers at their companies as well as messages of support.
In such worrying times for those who have families to feed and bills to pay, just a few kind words from others can be invaluable.

The Carillion catastrophe will roll on, but it is important we look forward and think about how we can operate best as a whole industry.
Lucy Alderson, features writer, Construction News

No comments: