Industry needs to face facts to get through 2022

RANZ chief executive Graham Moor.

Roofing Association of NZ (RANZ) chief executive Graham Moor says we need acknowledgement across the board that there is so much going on currently that is totally outside of our control.

With the current Omicron outbreak, as business owners and contract signers we’ll likely find ourselves in positions which, in some cases, may not be achievable, let alone prudent.

The impact on operations will be significant, with not only the requirements where anyone who presents positive for Covid 19 must stand down, but also the close contacts of the positive case, which obviously includes those they were working with.

Given most businesses that operate in the construction sector are SMEs with small teams (and I don’t know many, if any, that have a subs bench), the business operations are basically grounded to a halt immediately for the period.

And our suppliers face the same predicament. Stand down a significant manufacturer’s team for 14 days or so, and with the state of our current supply chain tell me when that gear is going to arrive?

So could someone out therealso  tell me why we now bother to sign contracts with delivery promises which may no longer be feasible? We can only control what we can control.

We need acknowledgement across the board that there is so much going on currently that is totally outside of our control.

I have stayed away from the price increase issue here — but don’t expect that these businesses will have the financial capacity to simply be able to absorb what’s coming, is all I’ll say on that.

There are builders out there that accept a finish date and then down the track turn to their specialist trades and, despite the changed landscape, say this is still the date we must all be finished by — “all good?”

Not all of you, but plenty do — why? Oh, and to add to the pressure pile, we make a promise we can’t keep, and then agree to be financially penalised for not making the unattainable date.

Looking through the recent Registered Master Builders Awards, I would make a reasonable assumption that the builder and their specialist trades took a collaborative approach to achieve such great outcomes for their client.

No doubt there would have been some commitment dates. Going forward, hitting those dates is going to be comparatively really hard.

I am not looking for a get-out-of-jail-free card for specialist trades here — rather just some pragmatism between what was promised and what can actually be done.

Our members want to complete their work, just like you do. To that you may be thinking, easy for you to say but you are not dealing with the client.

We need to realign the client’s expectations with reality. Simply put, we will try our best, but facts need to be fairly faced that too much is beyond our control in these times.

Personally, I have fielded calls from our members reporting being straight-out bullied by builders, with a lack of acknowledgement of our shared reality, cropping up in a number of forms: “You signed the contract with that date.” “But you said you could.” “Don’t care, get here!” . . . I’m sure you get the picture — it’s not pretty!

We have to bring some realism to the table. We need to set parameters that still strive for a finish date, but have everyone involved knowing and accepting that there is every possibility that the finish date cannot be achieved.

And, as mentioned, this will also need to include factoring in the inevitable absences that Omicron is going to leave us with. Having to stand down the infected and their close contacts will decimate workforces.

And, bearing in mind that staff may also be lost for days on end for being close contacts when other members of their household test positive — up to 24 days without one or several of your people will be tough.

Toughest consequence

The toughest consequence of all of this change, complexity and strain is the impact on peoples’ mental health.

The pressure and stress we are under is palpable. Most of us are not fully cognisant of our own mental state, let alone those around us. We need to be mindful of ourselves and our people.

We all know our industry’s poor mental health statistics. We and our people will certainly have pressure for all sorts of reasons and from various quarters.

We need to be observant, encouraging, engaging, receptive and good listeners. There are some great initiatives to help, such as Mates in Construction. RANZ has a free Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) for members available as well. Check with your association and see what they offer.

As important as anyone with all that is going on is ourselves. I speak frequently with many members, and there is no doubt that plenty are labouring under the pressure load.

I was speaking with someone the other day, for instance, with a full order book but, understandably, unsure as to how they’re now going to get it all done.

Last year was tough. Lockdowns, a dreadful supply chain and more work than one can cope with and, by the looks of things, here we go again this year.

We just need to be patient, stock up on our resilience, and communicate better with each other than we ever have before.

And remember, your association is here to help you.

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