In New South Wales, the $341 million Concord Hospital development is a pilot project testing out a five-day work week. There are hopes the project, due for completion in 2021, will demonstrate that a shorter work week can boost productivity.
Working on the hospital redevelopment, construction group Roberts Pizzarotti will employ close to 400 people on the project. The company proposed a Monday-to-Friday workweek in their tender.
This pilot project supports the push for the Government to give construction workers their weekends back and drop penalties for late delivery. The proposed new standards aim to lower the devastating suicide rates by lessening financial pressures on contractors who may struggle to complete billions of dollars of new infrastructure.
Weighing Out the Benefits
Jobsite ANZ spoke to Ashley Schulz who is working for Roberts Pizzarotti on the Concord Hospital project.
“I think the five-day work week is great on the Concord Hospital project. I just came off working six days, and I have so much time for myself now. However, getting buy-in can be hard because a lot of people want to work six days for the money. But, if you work 12-hour days, the money is similar.”
I just came off working six days, and I have so much time for myself now.
The construction industry culture Taskforce, responsible for drawing up the new industry standards on working hours, diversity and health, hopes both government and the private sector will adopt the standards. They will be developed over the next 12 months and will include policies for more flexible work hours.
Free Time and Stress Relief
Jim Stavropoulos, Roberts Pizzarotti’s project manager on the hospital, said the shorter week, the first in his 30-year construction career, was fantastic. It allowed workers to spend weekends with their families instead of being home alone on rostered days off, he said.
The company is also working out how to reduce financial penalties for late delivery in order to alleviate stress. Roberts Pizzarotti CEO Alison Mirams told the Australian Financial Review that they will not pass down liquidated damages unless incurred from the client.
Thoughts From the Jobsite
Jobsite ANZ spoke to workers out on the job sites to get a feel for how they feel about these pressures and the proposed new standards.
“I think overworking in trades is a massive problem that leads to injury and early retirement for a lot of people. Just fatigue-caused injuries, which can be avoided, cost the industry millions if not more. It’s not normal for your body to hurt, but tradies get to a point where their physical pain is deemed normal, and so they push through, often causing further irreversible damage. These injuries rarely get the time needed to heal, with long hours and six-day work weeks,” Mark.
“The construction industry is the most traditional industry in the world, and this move is a step towards modernity. A diverse workforce is profitable; the industry needs to attract a broader range of workers. More desirable conditions are essential,” Jessica.
“From a WHS point, this is a good initiative. I’ve seen many dangerous ‘production over safety’ decisions taken purely to avoid late fines even though better planning and staff levels would help. One example is a Tier 2 company making workers do a 17-hour shift to complete a supermarket installation and neglected to give them a 10 HR break. I was furious, pulled rank and had them driven home. Suicide and injury rates would decrease,” Cherie, WHS Consultant.
There was a time where we could pick and choose who we wanted to work for, but there isn’t much work here at the moment.
“The government doesn’t seem to be driving it; many of the Tier 1’s are pushing it in their tenders on government projects. Roberts Pizzarotti was the first, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens at the end of the project! At Lendlease, we have many sites now that work five in seven (days), and it seems to be working well. Need the subcontractors to buy in, though… many tradies love the Saturday pay!” Meagan.
“I’m an electrician, and I’ve just got out of the construction industry. There was a time where we could pick and choose who we wanted to work for, but there isn’t much work here at the moment. We have people getting laid off, companies going under, everyone is underquoting to win jobs, putting more pressure on the workers to finish the job sooner and with less people,” Emma.
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