Builders worry EU workers might not return after Christmas

The UK construction industry is asking its highly valued EU workers, who might be travelling home for Christmas, to please come back after the Christmas break, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

The FMB has published some new research which focusses on how the bosses of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms view their EU workers and the key findings include:

  • 85% of construction SME employers that employ EU workers say that these workers are important in allowing their business to maintain and expand its workforce;
  • 76% of these firms say it would have a negative impact on the health of their business if any of the EU workers they employ returned to their country of origin, now or post-Brexit;
  • 94% of firms describe the quality of EU workers they employ as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said, “Our latest research shows that EU workers are vital to the success of the UK construction industry and our message to these individuals is clear – you are highly valued and we need you. Christmas is now upon us and there’s a risk that those EU migrant workers who go home to their home countries for the festive period might not come back.

“With Brexit looming large on the horizon, EU workers in the UK are facing high levels of uncertainty over their future. Furthermore, since the depreciation of sterling in the summer of 2016, their wages aren’t worth as much as they were previously. Construction employers are genuinely concerned that this mixture of uncertainty about the future and less money in their pockets will make the UK a much less attractive proposition that it was pre-referendum.”

Berry concluded, “Ministers haven’t done enough to reassure EU workers that they have a future in the UK. In our joint ‘Construction Industry Brexit Manifesto’, published at the end of November, seven of the major trade bodies have called on the Government to embark upon a communications campaign that makes clear to our EU workers that they’ll have no serious impediments to gaining settled status. Indeed, both the Government and the industry need to do all that they can to put a positive message across. In the medium term, the construction industry can and should do more to attract and train a greater proportion of domestic workers.

“However, such is the extent of the current construction skills shortages, we’ll continue to need to draw upon a high number of EU migrant workers post-Brexit if the Government wants to meet its target for new homes and infrastructure projects.”

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