Twelfth fortnight annual holiday no more for building firms
Northern Ireland's construction industry is to demolish the 50-year tradition of observing the Twelfth fortnight as an annual holiday, it can be revealed.
It will introduce just two fixed days off for the annual holiday in 2018.
Most construction companies will be downing tools today until July 24, as they stick to a custom of shutting up shop for two weeks, which has all but died out in other industries.
The Joint Council for the Building and Civil Engineering Industry (NI) maintains a policy of 29 fixed days off for brickies, labourers and other members of the construction trade.
But from next year it will observe just 18 fixed days and 12 flexible days.
The fixed days include Thursday, July 12 and Friday, July 13. However, companies will still be able to treat further holidays over the Twelfth fortnight as part of their flexible days off.
No one was available for comment from the council on the reasons behind the change - but it's understood the increasing trend for Northern Ireland building firms to get work in Britain is one factor driving the change.
Northern Ireland's biggest manufacturer, aerospace giant Bombardier, said it was closing for next week alone, and that it was at least 20 years since it had observed the Twelfth fortnight by closing for 10 working days.
And Sensata - a maker of tyre-pressure monitoring systems in Antrim - said it closed for just July 12 and 13, a policy it had maintained for at least 15 years.
Caterpillar NI in Larne, meanwhile, also closes for one week.
But construction firms including Hagan Homes said they were shutting their sites for two weeks - though managing director Jamesy Hagan said its office was closing for just one week.
Economist John Simpson said he believed the industry had observed the custom of a fortnight's closure over the Twelfth for around half-a-century.
He said: "Yes, it can make sense for all members of the same industry to take the same fortnight off, yet in some other ways it can become a luxury.
"In addition, many construction companies are now finding they are getting more work in Great Britain, so they don't want to stop work for a whole two weeks when no one else is."