As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis continues and work slows to a trickle for many contractors, industry associations are reminding governments of how critical the services provided by the plumbing and HVAC/R industry are.
“We are advocating that governments understand that the products and services of the HVACR industry – heating and cooling for occupant comfort and safety, refrigeration processes for food preservation and medical care, etc. – are essential services for Canadians, and give appropriate consideration as such in policies and programs that are rolled out to address the pandemic,” reported Sandy McLeod, president of the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI), in a letter to members.
“HRAI is also pressing for appropriate financial supports for business owners, self-employed contractors and employees who may be especially vulnerable during the economic downturn resulting from restrictions on activity,” he added.
For the most part, our discussions with government indicate that they understand the role of our industry, noted Martin Luymes, HRAI vice president of programs and relations, particularly on the commercial and institutional side where it’s critical that hospitals and other infrastructure remains open and that there are trades people available to make repairs and keep equipment running. “We don’t really have to make the point, but we will anyway.”
At the same time, he notes, many residential service contractors are seeing work dry up, as people cancel projects and delay planned maintenance. Some contractors have suggested that HVAC/R service be declared an essential service. A potential risk with this sort of thing, however, is that once an industry is deemed essential, business owners may be prevented from laying off staff, said Luymes. “From our perspective, the need to be treated as ‘essential’ means that there should be appropriate supports for companies that provide these services, to keep them viable and functioning.”
Industry associations are also struggling as shows, training and other events are cancelled or postponed. The Canadian Mechanicals and Plumbing Exposition (CMPX) was to take place in Toronto March 25-27 and the MEET Show was to take place in Moncton, N.B. May 6-7. Both have been postponed. These are major revenue streams for the organizations.
“When you think about it, associations are largely about putting people in rooms together, whether it’s to train, learn about new products or exchange ideas” remarked Luymes, “and that’s been taken away from us for the time being.”
HRAI has developed a number of resources to help contractors and others in the industry navigate their way through the COVID-19 crisis on its website at www.hrai.ca.
“It’s amazing how fast the world moves in times of crisis. Just 10 days ago, we were confident that our popular biennial show, CMPX, would run as expected, today it’s hard to imagine attending an event of any size,” remarked McLeod.