Graham Manly, president of the Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association, said: "170,000 construction specialists lost their jobs in 2008, and there is a strong chance that we will reach a quarter-of-a-million by the end of this year."
He said that intensifying problems with payment and worsening contract terms threatend to send many firms under.
Manly warned specialist subcontractors had seen average payment times drift towards 60-days in recent months.
He added: "Reduced turnover is not necessarily a cause of business failure in itself, but the associated introduction of onerus payment terms most certainly can be," he added.ADVERTISEMENT
"Lord Mandelson's 10-day payment plan for the public sector would have been a laudable concept, if only it had applied to every contractor in the supply chain and was enforceable."
Giving his annual HVCA address, he warned that efforts to improve contract conditions and payment certainty through the Construction Act would come too late to save many businesses.
"Our major concern is the unacceptable working practices and contractual arrangments now being re-introduced as a result of the recession will become the norm for many years to come."
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