We have taken some time to reflect during this challenging period and to catch up with Paudie Somers, and to get his views on the current Coronavirus crisis and its wide-reaching impact.
So Paudie it is over a month since we last spoke, I think it is fair to say a lot has changed in that time.
Yes, and in a way that none of us could have possibly predicted, however the way the teams have adapted to what is now the “new normal” has been amazing. We have now moved some people to work from home which I think was the sensible thing to do at the right time. This also removes an area of risk so we can focus on supporting the site teams and is testament to the efforts of our IT team, and the flexibility of our people to adapt to the change so quickly.
And the site teams?
What can I say, they have been fantastic in what is new territory for us all.
Some of the feedback I have received from customers regarding the support that our teams are giving them in order for them to maintain the safe operation of critical infrastructure has been amazing. It is our site teams that are the backbone of our country and keep it ticking. Our priority is to ensure that we operate in a manner that offers them protection as individuals in terms of social distancing, heightened hygiene awareness, and ultimately protect jobs for the long term. I cannot thank them enough for their dedication and support.
How do you see the economic outlook for our clients?
Mixed, quite rightly there is a primary focus on welfare that is seeing reduced manpower requirements on some of our sites and we have seen deferral of works, understandably, with the need to mitigate the numbers of personnel on site. The government’s intervention, although lacking detail, is significant and very welcome, and it is fair to say that some industries will obviously be hit harder than others. However what I have broadly seen is a controlled and responsible approach from our customers and we are collectively managing things almost on a daily basis in what is a very fluid environment, whilst ensuring we do not “knee jerk” to the situation, and we will be there to support them as we come out of this and return to a sense of normality.
People will be worried about their jobs, how do you see that peoples jobs will be impacted?
I think we have to be realistic and honest with ourselves that yes it will impact people’s jobs, but as I have said previously, we will all need to take some pain to try and preserve as many jobs as possible for the longer term.
We are looking at multiple options such as a reduced working week for a period, unpaid holidays, voluntary redundancy and the potential to furlough people supported by the government’s intervention as a backstop. This has got to be balanced with the fact that we have a significant business to operate and one that will, at some point, “need all hands to the pumps” as the country recovers as the industry plays catch up on work that has been delayed.
What do you see as the time horizon for the impact on the business?
It is very difficult to say, however the consensus appears to be that this will likely impact us for the next four months and whilst ensuring we remain as flexible as possible, this is the current timeline we are working with. I don’t think I am alone in thinking the world will be a different place.
Do you have any specific message for the Altrad team?
Thankyou – Thank you for your efforts at an extremely testing time for all of us. Look after yourselves and your families, support your communities and the NHS, and let people know that we are doing all we can to mitigate the impact on the business and preserve jobs and livelihoods for the future.