Construction work on the Burrell Collection is 'putting lives at risk', union chiefs have warned.

The £66million refurbishment of the Burrell Collection, which contains some of the most important collections of medieval art in the world, started in 2016.

Work was due to be completed at the site in Pollok Country Park, in Glasgow, this year but had been pushed back until 2021.

Now Glasgow City Council and Kier, the construction firm in charge of the site, are facing criticism about keeping workers on the job site amid the coronavirus outbreak.

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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 said they had chosen to follow the UK Government’s rules.

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

But the Scottish secretary of Unite, Pat Rafferty, urged Scottish ministers to introduce tougher measures 'to ensure non-essential sites shut down because lives are at risk'.

Mr Rafferty 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.”

A spokesman for Kier said: “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 Burrell 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 the items.

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

The redevelopment will see the museum’s public space increase by 83 per cent and gallery space increase by 35 per cent.

Some storerooms on the lower ground floor will be open to the public for the first time.

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

The pay cuts, which come into force from tomorrow, will affect about 6,500 employees and will be implemented until the end of June.

It is understood around 80 per cent of the firm's sites remain open, though the firm has paused work on its house-building sites.

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