Firm declines to comment on speculation it is planning job cuts

Laing O’Rourke has admitted it is running the rule over how its business will operate in the future – but declined to comment on speculation that this includes making job cuts.

The country’s biggest private contractor employs 8,000 staff in the UK and in April put 1,000 people on furlough, the government’s jobs retention initiative which is due to come to an end in October. The firm said 900 remain on the scheme.

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Ray O’Rourke has said its sites will be back at full productivity by the end of July

Speculation has grown in recent days the firm is looking to pare back staff numbers.

A Laing O’Rourke spokesperson said: “We do not comment on rumours. Like all UK businesses at this time we have challenges to address, including how we reopen offices, implement new ways of working, and address the longer-term impacts of the last three months on our sector, and we’re working through these.”

A growing number of firms having begun redundancy programmes with Multiplex the latest big-name contractor to confirm it was cutting staff just hours after builders merchant Travis Perkins said it was getting rid of 2,500 employees.

Yesterday, O’Rourke took out a full-page advertisement in a Sunday newspaper promising a return to full productivity in July.

The spokesperson confirmed its projects were “on track to return to full productivity by the end of July”. She added: “We believe that now, more than ever, our sector needs to modernise and improve productivity as the challenges it faces have been laid bare by the current crisis.”

In the advert, signed by chief executive Ray O’Rourke, readers were told full productivity would be “enabled by [a] direct-delivery operating model and modern methods of construction”.

He added: “I must thank our clients and supply chain for their ongoing confidence in our operating model of digital engineering, direct employment and off-site manufacturing.

“Modern Methods of Construction have been critical to continuing high-quality work with fewer people on site and our sector must now embrace this fully to maximise its contribution to the UK’s economic recovery.”

The advert ended with O’Rourke thanking the government, the firm’s financial stakeholders, partners and advisors for “their immediate and detailed response”.

Meanwhile, one of the country’s biggest consultants Turner & Townsend said it had not begun job cuts but admitted: “We continue to review what actions we need to take as the market impact unwinds.”

In its last set of accounts, its UK business, which has 17 offices stretching from Aberdeen to London, including its headquarters at One New Change in St Paul’s, employed more than 2,800 people and posted revenues of £259m in the year to April 2019.