A major new survey by specialists’ champion StreetwiseSubbie revealed that “never in the field of construction was so much owed by so few to so many.”
Founder Barry Ashmore said: “The whole construction industry is at breaking point.
“I have been in the industry for 40 plus years and have come through previous recessions, but never have I seen the industry in as dire state as it is today.
“It has always been tough for specialist subcontractors, but the way specialist contractors are being treated today is an absolute disgrace.
“It seems to me that the main contractors are expecting, as a matter of routine, to underpay or withhold money from those lower down the food chain.
“Specialist subcontractors are given ludicrous excuses for non-payment. And the contractors think it is an acceptable way to do business.”
The survey of nearly 300 specialists showed two-thirds are being paid less than agreed or certified with 90% of firms claiming main contractors have cost their business between £20,000 and £100,000 in the last year.
Ashmore said: “Those main contractors who are fair and work closely with their subcontractors are in a very small minority. There just isn’t enough fair treatment, and it is sad to see subbies faith in the industry being destroyed.
“I believe that this unacceptable behaviour is being driven from the top, as contractors’ main board directors demand profits from their commercial directors and managers, who in turn put pressure on the QSs to deliver results.
“The contractors’ site teams are under pressure and are forced to withhold money from the subcontractors to cover up for their own mistakes.”