Berkeley boss rebuts criticism of UK construction workers by media magnate turned housebuilder

Construction industry figures hit back at former newspaper magnate turned housebuilder Eddie Shah after he launched a blistering attack on construction unions and building workers.

Shah said: “The spirit of the corrupt trade unions still lives on in the construction industry.” He added that UK construction workers were “lazy and incompetent, often working no more than five hours a day. Shoddy in their workmanship, they have no pride in their efforts and spend more time avoiding work than doing it. I would employ Poles tomorrow and pay a higher rate because I know they would do a better job.”

But Berkeley founder Tony Pidgley accused Shah of making crude generalisations about the industry. He said: “I'd say the opposite is true, and I have a good bit of experience of workers in our industry. Most working in housebuilding are subcontractors or self-employed and they do a good job and work very hard. People in the industry from eastern Europe do tend to work longer hours than we do here, but his comments are wrong.”

Ucuatt general secretary Alan Ritchie called Shah a “failed newspaper boss”. He said: “It is a pity that Eddie Shah has crawled out from under the rock where he has been hiding, particularly when he spouts such rubbish.”

He added: “Maybe if construction bosses actually looked after their workforce, rather than spending their time trying to ensure they don't have to pay standard benefits such as holiday pay, the industry would be more productive. I do hope that Mr Shah does not treat his workers in this way.”

In an article written for Shah, who now builds environmentally friendly homes, reserves his principal wrath for painters and decorators, electricians and plumbers, who he said were incompetent and spent all day on their mobile phones.

But he had some kind words for groundwork teams, roofers and timber frame specialists, who he said worked hard because they were on fixed prices and needed to get away to other jobs.