Subcontractors in the Time of COVID
“These are the times that try men’s souls”.
These famous words from the great American patriot Thomas Paine, almost 250 years ago, are certainly applicable in 2020, as we all suffer personally and economically through the crisis brought on by COVID-19. We shelter in place in order to protect the health and welfare of our families. Our economy is crashing as countless businesses have been shuttered and over 38 million Americans have become unemployed since mid-March.
Our New York City construction industry has been seriously wounded by the COVID-19 crisis. Numerous public and private construction projects have been paused. Many will not launch or be continued once Albany gives the signal to resume construction, hopefully during the first couple of weeks of June. The construction boom that our industry experienced in recent years is likely now over. Many say that our industry will begin to experience the low times most recently seen during the great recession of 2008. We can only hope that the impact on construction will not be as serious as it was then.
STA members will likely be asked by both owners and general contractors to bear more than their fair share of the cost of returning to work. We have already seen this on some of the essential construction projects that have come online since the statewide pause in March. We have seen subcontractors asked to absorb an inordinate share of the costs of all PPE, testing, and sanitary costs on some projects. On other projects, subcontractors are being asked to take on the costs associated with new construction methods necessitated by the COVID-19. This is not not acceptable!
Owners (both public and private) and general contractors should share in these COVID-19 costs. While no one could predict the current state of doing business during a global pandemic, the owners and general contractors should not push all of the financial pain from this crisis on subcontractors. Terms and conditions should be renegotiated by the owners so that the responsibility for safety on construction sites, is not borne solely by the subcontractors. Subcontractors should push for the best contractual terms possible where COVID-19 costs are concerned, from the owners and general contractors before returning to work. It is simply not acceptable for all of the costs of doing business in the time of COVID-19 to be pushed down to the construction subcontractors.
The STA will monitor the return to essential and non-essential construction in the coming weeks and advocate on behalf of its member subcontractors where these issues are concerned.
My best to the members of the STA and their families during these trying times!