Tradies from across Sydney have pleaded with the government to let them go back to work so they can feed their families during Covid lockdowns that have brought the $60billion construction industry to its knees.
Building sites came to a grinding halt on Monday as Gladys Berejiklian ordered construction pause until the end of July to reduce Covid case numbers, which grew by 78 on Tuesday.
The number of infections is particularly high in the south-west Sydney hotspots of Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool - where one in ten people work in the building sector.
The greater Sydney lockdown is scheduled to end on July 30, but could last much longer.
Last week the federal government announced a coronavirus support scheme to give people who have lost more than 20 hours of work a $600 weekly payment - but Jim from St George Painting says he and his colleagues 'don't want handouts'.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Pictured: Jim, a painter from St George Painting, has pleaded with the government to let him work again
'We want to work,' he told A Current Affair on Tuesday night.
Jim has been using the lockdown to teach his sons Vasilly and Gregory about the trade, but he's going stir crazy staying at home.
'I'm trying to be the head of the family, the rock of the family and come up with answers and I can't,' he said.
'We're not used to staying at home, we're up in the morning going off to work.
He pleaded with the government: 'Open up and let us pay our way. We need the work. We love what we do.'
Builder George Khoury from Liberty Building Contractors said his company feeds seven families who have now been left without an income.
Builder George Khoury (pictured middle, with his employees and their families) from Liberty Building Contractors said his company feeds seven families who have now been left without an incomeInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
'There's seven jobs we've had to stop. And a lot of the jobs, our clients are close to moving into their homes,' Mr Khoury told the program.
'We're not being paid anything, but there's still money paid out - you have staff that you have to look after, banks don't slow down and supplies don't slow down
His wife Bernadette said: 'If we're not being paid, we can't pay our rent. And obviously no food on the table.'
Their daughter, who has a young child, said she is deeply worried about her parents - 'my dad especially'.
Fred, who is a landscaper at Thorn and Thistle, and his nephew Buddy got a delivery of plants and soil worth $1,000 on the Friday, only to be told they could no longer work the following day.
'We can't pay because we're not getting paid,' he said.
Brian Seidler is the executive director of the Master Builder's Association New South Wales (pictured) and said NSW should reopen its construction sector
Buddy said: 'We might be a small businesses, but there's a lot of people who rely on us.'
He said they often buy coffee and lunch from local stores and support local businesses.
Homeowner John was supposed to move into his newly renovated house on August 9, but the whole project has been halted due to lockdown - forcing him to extend the lease on the rental where he is staying.
'I'm spending about $200,000 for this renovation and we are bang in the middle of it at the moment,' he said.
During Victoria's gruelling lockdown last year, small residential projects were allowed to continue with less than five workers on site.
The Berejiklian government has defended the decision to suspend the building and construction industry, as it was deemed necessary to control the outbreak of the virus, especially in south-west Sydney (pictured, construction site workers in Sydney pre-lockdown)
Larger sites were allowed to continue at 25 per cent capacity, as long as all workers were confined to one site.
Brian Seidler, the executive director of the Master Builder's Association New South Wales, said