Meet the Real Faces of the Covid Construction Stop in Sydney

Traditions across Sydney have begged the government to let them go back to work so they can feed their families during Covid lockdowns that have brought the $60 billion construction industry to its knees.

Construction sites came to a standstill on Monday when Gladys Berejiklian ordered a construction break until the end of July to reduce the number of Covid cases, which grew by 78 on Tuesday.

The number of infections is especially high in the south-west Sydney hotspots, Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool, where one in ten people work in the construction sector.

The greater lockdown in Sydney is expected to end on July 30, but could last much longer.

Last week, the federal government announced a coronavirus relief scheme to give people who have lost more than 20 hours of work a weekly payment of $600 – but St George Painting’s Jim says he and his colleagues ‘don’t want handouts’ .

Pictured: Jim, a painter of St George Painting, has begged the government to let him work again

‘We want to work,’ he said A current matter on Tuesday evening.

Jim has used the lockdown to teach his sons Vasilly and Gregory the trade, but he’s going crazy staying home.

“I try to be the head of the family, the rock of the family and come up with answers, but I can’t,” he said.

“We are not used to staying at home, we get up in the morning to go to work.

He begged the government, ‘Open the door and let us pay. We need the work. We love what we do.’

Builder George Khoury of Liberty Building Contractors said his company feeds seven families who now have no income.

Builder George Khoury (pictured center, with his employees and their families) of Liberty Building Contractors said his company is feeding seven families who now have no income

Builder George Khoury (pictured center, with his employees and their families) of Liberty Building Contractors said his company is feeding seven families who now have no income

“There are seven jobs that we have had to close. And for many of the jobs, our clients are almost in their homes,” Mr. Khoury told the program.

“We’re not getting paid, but money is still being paid – you have staff to look after, banks don’t slow down and inventories don’t slow down

His wife Bernadette said, ‘If we don’t get paid, we can’t pay our rent. And of course no food on the table.’

Their daughter, who has a young child, said she is very concerned about her parents – “especially my father.”

Fred, a landscape gardener at Thorn and Thistle, and his cousin Buddy received a $1,000 delivery of plants and soil on Friday, but were told they could no longer work the next day.

“We can’t pay because we don’t get paid,” he said.

Brian Seidler is the Executive Director of the Master Builder's Association New South Wales (pictured) and said NSW should reopen its construction sector

Brian Seidler is the Executive Director of the Master Builder’s Association New South Wales (pictured) and said NSW should reopen its construction sector

Buddy said, “We may be a small company, but there are a lot of people who count on us.”

He said they often buy coffee and lunch from local shops and support local businesses.

Homeowner John was supposed to move into his newly renovated home on August 9, but the entire project has been halted due to the lockdown, forcing him to renew the lease of the rental where he is staying.

“I’m spending about $200,000 on this renovation and we’re in the middle of it right now,” he said.

During Victoria’s grueling lockdown last year, small housing projects were allowed to continue with fewer than five workers on site.

The Berejik government has defended the decision to suspend the building and construction industry, as it was deemed necessary to contain the virus outbreak, especially in south-west Sydney (pictured, construction site workers in Sydney before the lockdown)

The Berejik government has defended the decision to suspend the building and construction industry, as it was deemed necessary to contain the virus outbreak, especially in south-west Sydney (pictured, construction site workers in Sydney before the lockdown)

Larger locations were allowed to continue at 25 percent capacity, as long as all employees were limited to one location.

Brian Seidler, the executive director of the Master Builder’s Association New South Wales, said Sydney should follow suit.

“With the information coming out of the government over the past 24 hours, the industry is calling for an immediate reopening,” said Mr Seidler.

He said he was in talks with the state government and NSW Health about reopening some sectors of the industry.

“If the government doesn’t base their closure on evidence of proliferation, then we’re calling on the government to open the industry as soon as they closed it.”

Even if the industries are allowed to run again, he said it will take about a month for workers to get the sites back to how they were running before.

People queuing at Centrelink in Sydney's Darlinghurst on Tuesday (pictured) as the number of people out of work due to lockdown continues to rise

People queuing at Centrelink in Sydney’s Darlinghurst on Tuesday (pictured) as the number of people out of work due to lockdown continues to rise

Despite the frustration of countless workers who are indefinitely out of tools, NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian emphasizes that the decision to shut down the building and construction industry was necessary to ‘end the lockdown as soon as possible’.

“We want to ensure that our population can live as safely and freely as possible until we vaccinate a large part of the population,” she said.

David Borger, an executive director who specializes in construction projects in western Sydney, said workers have budgeted their work and livelihoods based on their continued tenure as key merchants.

Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in June showed unemployment in NSW had fallen to an encouraging 4.9 percent.

Due to the recent lockdown, those numbers could rise to well above five percent.

On Tuesday, NSW registered 78 new Covid-19 cases – but 27 were contagious in the community.

The 78 positive results in the 24 hours to 8 p.m. Monday night came from 62,860 tests.

Greater Sydney is going through its fourth week of strict stay-at-home lockdown restrictions to slow the spread of the highly contagious Delta strain.

SYDNEY’S LOCKDOWN: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW UNTIL JULY 30

Those living in Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Shellharbour and Wollongong must adhere to the following:

Masks are mandatory in all indoor outdoor environments, including offices and apartment buildings

Residents can travel only 10 km from their home

– Practice and gather outdoors in groups of two

– Only one member of each household per day is allowed to leave the house for essential errands

– No browsing in supermarkets and shops. Shop for essential items only

– Funerals are limited to 10, weddings are prohibited

– No carpooling with other households when exercising

There is no curfew but there is a stay-at-home order, with just four reasons to leave your home

Schools are closed with homeschooling, but no child will be turned away if they have to attend in person

The new rules are in addition to the stay-at-home rules already in effect until July 30, including only leaving the house to:

*shop for essential items (one person only)

*give care and compassionate reasons (one visitor only)

*exercise or for work or training that cannot be performed remotely

People in Fairfield, Liverpool or Canterbury in south-west Sydney are advised to stay at home unless:

*shop for essential items (one person only)

*give care and compassionate reasons (one visitor only)

*For work, unless it is an essential service, such as health workers. Companies must offer employees the opportunity to work from home.

* All essential workers who are allowed to leave their suburbs to work are subject to the same restrictions that were previously in place, namely receiving a negative Covid test every three days.

The rest of NSW (including regional areas) is subject to the following restrictions:

  • Dance and gym classes are limited to 20 people per class and masks must be worn
  • No more than five visitors (including children) in homes
  • Masks are mandatory in all non-residential indoor environments
  • The four-square-foot rule is back for indoor and outdoor environments and drinking while standing in indoor venues is not allowed
  • Dancing is not allowed in indoor hangouts or nightclubs, but dancing is allowed at weddings before the wedding party (no more than 20 people)

When will the lockdown end?

  • Stay at home orders are valid for Greater Sydney including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour until 11:59pm on Friday 30th July 2021

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