Tough Decisions in Challenging Times

As we manage our way through the continuing Covid 19 crisis our industry continues to play its essential role in delivering the materials that keeps our economy going. The extension to Government support through the Furlough Scheme by one month till the end of November is very welcome.

While feedback from MPANI Members shows business is brisk at present many businesses in the construction sector, including some in our own mineral products sector, have been faced with tough decisions about redundancies as uncertainty and fears grow about a downturn in Q4 2020 and Q1 2021.

The Association continues to give guidance to our Members on managing workplace safety and mental health matters and this information can be accessed and downloaded at any time through the Safe Quarry website at

MPA has also recently launched New Workplace Transport/Pedestrian Interface Resources to Support Members in the Drive to Eliminate ‘The Fatal 6’ Workplace Transport and Pedestrian Interface has been identified by MPA’s Health & Safety Committee as one of ‘The Fatal 6’ high consequence hazards that have been the main cause of fatalities and serious injuries and incidents over the last decade.

Developed by members of the MPA’s Vehicles and Pedestrians Health and Safety Working Group the resources act as a tool for sites to help them understand and control the typical risks that they manage in environments where vehicles and pedestrians interact. They build on the easily deployable Clear, Simple, Smart resources on Isolation, Covid-19 and Mental Health and Wellbeing that have already been launched by MPA this year. Using ‘guiding principles’, cartoons, consistent messaging, posters and (with support from MPQC) training tools, managers can deploy the resources to help improve on site behaviours and safety practices as part of MPA’s mission to eliminate ‘The Fatal 6’ incidents from operations. All these resources are available here on www.

The weeks and the months ahead will continue to be very challenging and that is why MPANI, along with other colleagues in the Northern Ireland Construction Group, having been working with Government Construction Clients to ensure the construction pipeline is identified and kept flowing. Recently at the request of NICG the Department of Finance confirmed the planned spending in active contracts for the remaining period of this financial year (Oct 20 – Mar 21) to help the construction industry and its supply chain plan capacity and manufacturing output as they recover from the impact of the pandemic. The total value of capital work is estimated to be around £680 million to be carried out between now and March 31st 2021. 

Good News for NIHE

The recent announcement by the Department for the Communities that the Northern Ireland Housing Executive is to undergo the biggest shake-up in its 50-year history is very welcome. The organisation will be split in two with its landlord arm becoming an independent mutual organisation. This will enable it to borrow money and start building houses again which is great news for the Construction Industry and our MPANI material suppliers.

The view of many within the industry is that it’s now vital that ministers extend this collective ambition to reforming the structure and funding model of Northern Ireland Water. Undoubtedly unlocking this before the end of current political mandate at the Assembly would set Northern Ireland up for a transformational period in terms of infrastructure investment.

As previously mentioned in the last edition MPANI submitted a detailed response to the Infrastructure Ministers independent panel on establishing an Infrastructure Commission here in NI. The Advisory panel have published their report and presented  it to the Minister, Nichola Mallon, who has now taken it to her Executive Colleagues  for support. We have been informed that there is cross party support for establishing a Commission and we look forward to further developments on this matter.

The CBI Infrastructure Group, on which I sit, has published its report setting out proposals on a shake-up of major planning processes. With a particular emphasis on projects of regional significance, the report sets out a series of recommendations to both streamline the planning process and establish a new framework for more effective delivery of strategic infrastructure projects in the longer term.

Developed in partnership with Jim MacKinnon CBE, Scotland’s former Chief Planner, the recommendations include the introduction of statutory timeframes for determinations, the use of processing agreements, and the development of a streamlined process for projects of regional significance. To view the CBI press release and download the report go to In addition to this the Infrastructure Minister has announced a review.

The Association also welcomed the announcement by Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, of her decision to approve the planning application for the extraction of sand from Lough Neagh subject to a number of conditions.

The Minister said, “I am an advocate for protection of the environment, and particularly a special one such as Lough Neagh. Taking account of all of the comments made, I have come to the view that there will be no adverse effect caused by the development on the Lough in terms of its integrity or other aspects of its designated status provided that suitable conditions and agreed measures are put in place. Given the importance of maintaining the integrity of the designated status of Lough Neagh, my final decision will issue only when the Section 76 Planning Agreement with
the applicant and relevant parties has been concluded to my satisfaction. I look forward to a speedy conclusion of that process.”

Transition Countdown

MPANI continue to advise Members on what they need to do as businesses to prepare for the end of the transition period. The Northern Ireland Protocol comes into force from 1 January 2021. For as long as it is in force, Northern Ireland will align with  all relevant EU rules relating to the placing on the market of manufactured goods. You must show that your products meet those rules by using ‘conformity markings.’

Recently published guidance from the Construction Leadership Council (CLC)
for Placing Construction Markets on
NI, GB and EU Markets highlights what the construction industry and material manufacturers need to do following the
end of the EU exit transition period on
31/12/2020, there will be three different product marks that manufacturers, and others in the supply chain, may need to apply. The rules governing these marks will depend on where the product is intended to be used. 

The three marks are:

  • The EU’s marking for product conformity (CE marking)
  • The EU’s marking for product conformity (CE marking)
  • The United Kingdom Northern Ireland mark (UK(NI) mark), which is additional to the CE marking in some instances.

In circumstances defined by the regulations in force in each jurisdiction, the manufacturer may be required to use the services of a conformity assessment body as part of the demonstration of conformity.

These tasks are performed by organisations recognised within the specific jurisdiction:

  • A UK Approved Body is designated by UK government for conformity assessment tasks required by regulations covering the GB market
  • An EU Notified Body is designated by an EU Member State and recognised by the European Commission for conformity assessment tasks required by EU law, covering EEA countries and relevant law as adopted by the UK for the Northern Ireland market
  • A UK Notified Body is designated by UK government by special dispensation under the Northern Ireland Protocol for UK conformity assessment bodies to provide conformity assessmentfor the CE marking for the Northern Ireland market only, provided it is accompanied by the UK(NI) marking). 

The CLC guidance, taken from the UK Gov website, but specific to construction materials can be viewed and downloaded at

The Government state that these arrangements will enable Northern Ireland businesses to trade freely within the EU Single Market, as well as enjoying unfettered access to the whole of the UK market. Furthermore any approvals or certifications secured in order to place goods on the market in the EU will be recognised when seeking to place the same goods on the market in the United Kingdom – avoiding the need for additional approvals to access the UK market.

For further information on the general arrangements for placing goods on the Northern Ireland market, see the guidance on placing manufactured goods on the market in Northern Ireland.

For further information on general requirements across the UK, see marking, labelling and marketing standards from 1 January 2021. Other useful links include: and

Age Profiling

Hopefully most of you will have had the opportunity to review the results of our 2020 Age Profiling Survey. The success and long term sustainability of any industry is dictated both by the quality of the people within it and its ability to attract qualified, enthusiastic young people with the right work ethic. The Association last carried out age profiling assessments back in 2015 and late 2017 and both highlighted the fact we continue to have an ageing workforce with ongoing challenges in attracting and recruiting young people into our Industry. It is concerning that the representation of over 46 year olds has increased by 3% from 39% to 42%.

While economic conditions are challenging due to the Covid 19 emergency and uncertainty over Brexit some within the precast sector reported increased recruitment of younger people while others particularly in quarrying, asphalt and concrete, continue to experience difficulties in recruiting younger people.

Once again the survey results, as we expected, show a continuing need to address the skills and succession issues the industry is facing and which, if not addressed, will further deteriorate and endanger the long term viability and sustainability of the industry. The current survey was carried out over the middle two quarters of 2020 with returns coming from 20 companies representing 3172 employees from a total industry direct workforce of around 5000, a 63% return in terms of employee numbers.

The survey encompassed the MPANI membership across the Asphalt, Quarrying, Ready Mixed Concrete and Precast Concrete sectors covering those employees involved in administration, operational, technical, sales and transport roles. This year we also asked Members to give us numbers of female employees and the activity they are engaged in. The results showed females represent just 11% of the total workforce. They are almost exclusively employed in administration representing 69% of everyone in that activity. Alarmingly only 0.6% of the operational workforce is made up by females. 

The survey results will now be used by MPANI to inform members and relevant industry stakeholders of the critical succession, skills and recruitment issues facing the industry with a view to formulating and implementing an industry wide plan to address these worrying trends.

The survey results again highlight the urgent need for a partnership approach and continuing work by the MPANI and other construction materials representative bodies such as the Institute of Quarrying, Chartered Institute of Highways, Concrete Society and Institute of Asphalt Technology.

This partnership led plan should take the shape of Building partnerships with the Further Education and Post Primary Education sectors, Government Lobbying for support and investing in more automated processes. We need to work with others, and in particularly MPSkills in promoting apprenticeship schemes across all industry sectors we represent that will hopefully develop a conveyor belt of trainee managers who in time will develop skill sets and competencies which will secure the future sustainability of the Industry.

Although great progress has been made as an Industry we need a continuing commitment to raise the bar in relation to performance, health and safety, environmental best practice and communication with communities and thereby make the industry inherently more attractive for career minded and capable young people. To view the full report go to –

Industry Journal

By now most of you will have received hard copies of our impressive MPANI 2020/21 Industry Journal and have seen our new MPANI Promotional Video “Proud of our Past Building our Future” video.

Both resources highlight the essential industry we are by the products and services we offer and the role we have in sustaining jobs and being part of our local community.

Can I finish by thanking everyone for their continued support and encourage any of you reading this who are not Members of MPANI and not supporting the very important we do to protect our Industries license to operate to please consider coming on board and be part of the MPANI team working for solutions to the many current and future challenges ahead.