Unite’s lead convenor for construction workers at the new Hinkley Point nuclear power station has warned that Brexit-related skills shortages could delay its progress as well as damaging the construction sector more widely.
Malcolm Davis called for certainty from the government on Britain’s post-Brexit immigration policies, warning that the power station’s construction relies on skilled workers from the EU because of domestic labour shortages.
The number of EU workers coming to Britain in the first quarter 2017/18 dropped by 95 per cent compared to same period of 2016/17, leading to “supply shock” in sectors such as construction, according to the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, with the threat of a no deal Brexit adding to the uncertainty.
Davis said: “At Hinkley Point we have inductions in different languages because it was anticipated there would be a lot of EU workers helping to build it. If the shortages worsen I believe we would totally struggle to fill the places here – most of which are for skilled labour.
“The numbers are huge: We’re going to need a third of all the steel fixers in Britain and a third of all shuttering carpenters for just one job. We’re simply not able to fill all those roles domestically. It’s the same for all major construction projects and it could hurt investment in the sector.”
As well as clarity over the position of EU workers after Brexit, Davis said there needs to be investment in skills that will create jobs, reduce labour shortages and ensure the sector remains buoyant.
He said: “But the Tories aren’t going to invest, especially if Brexit hits the economy – they’ll just go down the same route of imposing more austerity, which in turn will make things worse.”