GLASGOW City Council has been warned that lives are “at risk” as long as work continues on the publicly funded redevelopment of the Burrell Collection.

The local authority was keeping shtum yesterday, after The National asked why workers were still on-site at the £66 million refurbishment of the world-famous museum.

Last week, Nicola Sturgeon said ministers expected construction sites to be closed “unless the building that is being worked on is essential such as a hospital”.

But the English construction giant managing the project for the council told us they had chosen to follow the UK Government’s rules rather than heeding the Scottish Government’s advice.

Ministers south of the Border have said work on building sites can continue as long as workers follow strict social distancing rules.

Unite the union’s Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty urged Scottish ministers to introduce “tougher measures to ensure non-essential sites shut down because lives are at risk, and to ensure that workers are paid”.

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He said: “For several weeks now Unite has repeatedly been raising with construction firms and the Scottish Government that unless sites are expressly linked to the health service then they should shut down as the First Minister has stated.

“It’s outrageous that work remains ongoing at the Burrell Collection. The instruction from government is clear, however, firms continue to ignore this, which is why Unite is calling for tougher measures to ensure non-essential sites shut down because lives are at risk, and to ensure that workers are paid.”

SNP MP Stewart McDonald, whose Glasgow South constituency covers the Burrell Collection, said: “Three simple words: send staff home.”

Yesterday, Glasgow Life, the arms-length organisation which looks after the council’s cultural and sport offerings, declined to comment and referred all questions to Kier, the multinational construction firm in charge of the site.

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A spokeswoman for Kier said that it had reduced the number of personnel on site since the coronavirus outbreak. She commented: “The health, safety and welfare of our people is paramount and, as a responsible business, we have reviewed our sites to ensure they can operate in a way which continues to comply with the Construction Leadership Council’s Site Operating Procedures, which are based on the UK Government’s instructions.

“Following this review, the sites that are able to comply with these procedures, which includes the Burrell Collection, continue to be operational. The resources at the Burrell have been significantly reduced and are focusing upon the safety and security of this nationally important building.”

The refurbishment of the Burrell Collection started in 2016 and was due for completion this year. However, it has already been pushed back until 2021.

The collection includes more than 8000 items, most of which were donated to the city by Sir William Burrell in 1944, along with £250,000 to fund somewhere to house and display the items.

The shipping magnate died in 1958, long before the purpose-built building in the city’s Pollok Park was opened in 1983.

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Among the Burrell’s contents are some of the most important collections of medieval art in the world, as well as a number of more recent offerings by artists including Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas and Paul Cezanne.

The redevelopment will see the museum’s public space increase by 83% and gallery space increase by 35% with store rooms on the lower ground floor open to the public for the first time.

Kier announced yesterday that they cut staff salaries by between 7.5% and 25% for at least three months.

The pay cuts, which come into force from tomorrow, will affect about 6500 employees and will be implemented until the end of June.

Around 80% of the firms sites remain open, though the firm has have paused work on its house-building sites.

Most of company’s work is for the public sector, building hospitals, schools and other infrastructure as well as maintaining the UK’s highways.

The business has seen its market value fall from around £1 billion to around £200 million in the last year.

Kier shares fell 1.6% to 76.35% in morning trading yesterday.

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