As we approach the 10-week point since the lock down measures were introduced, the trading landscape is beginning to become clearer. The Government remain a supporter of the continuation of our industry but have rightly insisted that new checks and balances are imposed to assure the safety of our workforce and to prevent the spread of this virus. You will all be aware of the work that went it to ensuring that our workplaces are compliant with the Government guidelines and we were pleased to issue certificates confirming this is the case on all our sites. Any new sites will undergo the same process.
The threat of Covid-19 remains ever present. The very earliest a vaccine can be produced is by September, but there are a lot of things that all need to align if this is to be a success. AstraZeneca, the large pharmaceutical manufacturer, whose new facility at Cambridge we have been extensively involved in constructing, has said it has the capacity to produce 1bn doses of the University of Oxford’s potential Covid-19 vaccine and will, subject to successful clinical trials, begin supply of the vaccine in September. Until at least then, and quite reasonably for some time after, the revised ways of working are the new norm.
To remain operational, we must first and foremost remain safe – our LIFE principles have never been more important, and I implore you all to keep that at the forefront of everything you do. It was pleasing to see the team at Falconbrook receive praise from the client for the work they have done in transforming their site to embrace the covid-19 mitigations. This good work is not just confined to Falconbrook and we look forward to seeing more innovations from our people in the coming weeks.
Sites across the UK are now working to the timelines of the different devolved governments. From the Group perspective, we must remain aligned with our clients, who in turn take their guidance from the respective governments of the UK. Our Scottish sites are still some weeks away from restarting.
The larger structures sites around London have in the main endured throughout the past few weeks, whilst other parts of the country have ceased activity entirely. From a Commercial perspective, this has given rise to some difficult questions; namely how we capture and articulate the inefficiencies in the new ways of working, evidence these to the client and reach an agreement going forward. We cannot afford to simply keep building – we must operate commercially to secure our future.
Following the Middle East entering into the pandemic earlier than the UK, and suffering little or no impact, we have now experienced a significant deterioration in the last 2 weeks wherein our workforce has dropped from nearly 200 down to 12 due to quarantine requirements following testing showing 41 Covid-19 cases within our teams, albeit none of them were showing any symptoms. We expect to get through this situation in the next couple of weeks, but it has stopped productive works in Abu Dhabi entirely in the last two weeks.
We are in the final stages of bringing back our people off “Furlough”. The challenging landscape is here to remain and, as we have communicated previously, tough decisions have had to be made. The leaner back / mid office element will seek to support our core activity as ever before, but inevitably there will be some change. The processes that are being designed will streamline our way of operating and the rollout of our new digital technologies will mean that we have an information infrastructure fit for the next decade. We have seen the successful hourly and daily use of video conferencing technology and many useful meetings Have and will continue to take place via Microsoft Teams, going forward we must ensure we strike the right balance between the correct onsite supervision, coupled with the advantages that the connected world offers as far as remote head office functions are concerned.
To seismically change the shape / direction of the Group so abruptly over the past 10 weeks has not been easy. There has been uncertainty about business, worry about loved ones and the challenges that the tough decisions of redundancy / furlough bring. We can now start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot afford any complacency.
The economic health of the UK is strongly linked to the appetite of our Clients to pursue their commercial goals and the Government to progress infrastructure build. What happens to the property market post Covid-19 will directly affect where we go on the structures side of the Business. We are however confident that HS2 and infrastructure spend will be used to drive the country out of recession. However conversely airport expansions that were planned at Heathrow, Birmingham and indeed Gatwick now seem very unlikely in the next few years. You will also have noticed the daily announcements of more and more redundancies across various parts of the economy. We face some challenging times ahead.
By remaining professional in all that we do and adaptable in our approach we will navigate these challenges ahead and come out stronger on the other side.
We do not underestimate the stress that people have been under whether at work or at home during the last 10 weeks and some of that will continue. Please do not stay silent if your mental health is suffering. As a business we have access to the help that may be required. If you feel you need assistance, please ask.
We would also ask that you keep a close eye on your colleagues currently at work and others as they return to work and be aware of any behaviours that cause concerns. Everyone has been through a difficult time and it is not over yet. People react in different ways and we need to ensure we keep our people safe. We need to be ready to step in and offer help.
Teamwork, Respect, Integrity, Excellence and Determination – this is what we stand for and this is what set us above the rest. Through these difficult times our teams have where possible continued to deliver and we attach some photographs of the past few weeks. From our teams clapping on a Thursday night, to innovation at SPA on man riders, to project record weekly concrete quantities being poured at Kingston structures to 24-hour dedication on microtunnelling works. We thank you all for your efforts and dedication.
Our best wishes to you all and your families and please stay safe,
Joseph Gallagher and Steve Harvey
Chairman and Group Managing Director