18 Oct 2021

Builders call for mandatory vaccination in construction sector

From Checkpoint, 5:49 pm on 18 October 2021

It could be time for the government to hammer home compulsory vaccination for construction workers, according to a building industry group.

The Master Builders Association wants all building and construction sector workers covered by a mandatory immunisation order like the health and education sectors.

It comes hot on the heels of an apartment block construction site in central Auckland being named as a location of interest after a Covid-19 positive person was there over several days.

Master Builders Association chief executive David Kelly told Checkpoint that there was a lot of feedback coming in from commercial and residential contractors saying they were confused as to what they could and could not do.

On most construction sites there is the lead contractor and all the subbies such as painters and plumbers.

"Trying to line up all the different trades is very very difficult and then a number of those specialist trades move from site to site so this just leads to a recipe for confusion."

He said if something went wrong, such as at the building site in Auckland, everything had to grind to a halt.

"We just need clarity and everyone knows what the rules are."

Kelly said some clients are saying they don't want tradespeople who are not vaccinated so contractors want to know what their legal position is.

It's made worse by people having to wait a few weeks for tradies and then feeling pressured to have an unvaccinated person do work in their home.

"But they're very uncomfortable so again we think it's only fair to clients, particularly homeowners, that they know that the people coming into their homes - they're not going to expose them [to Covid-19]."

The vaccination rate in the construction sector is about 80 percent currently, and may have risen on Super Saturday, but Kelly believes the last 15 percent will be hard to convince.

He said contractors are telling him it is not an anti-vaccination attitude but rather that some of the young ones, in particular, don't want to be told what to do.

Kelly was not concerned there would be a hostile reaction to a vaccine mandate.

He did not believe there is the same culture in Aotearoa compared with Melbourne, where there were protests over compulsory vaccinations.

As for masks on building sites, it was disappointing that some tradies were not wearing them properly and he is among those trying to spread the message.