Creating a fairer future
The Fair Work Convention was set up in 2015 and is improving conditions in the construction industry with a special inquiry group focused on the sector – so how is it making a difference to Member businesses?
What is the Fair Work Convention?
The Fair Work Convention (FWC) was created six years ago and is a collaboration between groups including trade unions, employers and academics. It’s separate from government but has very strong links to it and acts as an independent advisory body to Scottish ministers. It has five dimensions: respect, fulfilment, security, opportunities and an effective voice. These are the factors that are required to make sure Scotland is a good and fair place to work and they want to achieve these by 2025.
How are you involved?
Last year the FWC launched the Construction Industry Inquiry Group to look at issues within the sector and I’m a member of this group through my role as The Secretary of the SJIB. The FWC’s five dimensions are the same objectives that are in the SJIB agreement – there’s a slight difference in emphasis and language, but the ethos is there. The SJIB agreement is now 50 years old but it’s withstood the passage of time.
It embraces those same dimensions as the FWC and that’s why we got involved. They’re also interested in what our part of the industry does. Construction often gets a bad press but electrical contractors and electricians are viewed by many as the elite – and that’s where we should always aspire to be.
What are some of the issues the inquiry group has looked at?
Procurement is one the of the issues. It’s difficult to see a clear path to resolve this aspect of the sector because we’ve got to deal with issues such as retentions and low value tendering which the current procurement models don’t help with. It’s interesting to see the work that Alan Wilson, SELECT’s Managing Director, has done, as well as others like Len Bunton and Rudi Klein, in terms of project bank accounts and retentions and how it all connects with procurement and how that in turn connects with the employment package.
It’s also looked at disputes and how to manage them. We have a very mature disputes process which works well but that might not be so true in other sectors within the construction industry. Again, it’s related to the five elements and how to make sure things are fair and equitable.
“It’s about raising standards and creating the sort of industry in which people want to work”
We have a great mix of voices and that gives us a range of different perspectives on the issues. I think everyone there has learned a lot from what they’ve heard and it’s helped them to look at things in a different way and get a better and more multifaceted understanding.
Why is the inquiry group important?
It’s about raising standards and creating the sort of industry in which people want to work. I’ve worked on sites and I can remember times when the mud was so bad you’d lose your boots in it. On days like that all you want to do is get somewhere warm and dry, and that’s why it’s so important to have the right facilities and to raise standards.
You hear stories about people being bullied and harassed in construction and we need to find ways of changing that. Diversity is another issue, and we need to get more women and different ethnicities interested in the industry. Construction also has quite a lot of issues with mental health. The electrical industry is doing a good job with this but these are aspects we need to look at as a whole industry. If we can make it a great place to work, then it will keep the talent pool flowing into the industry.
Why is it relevant to SELECT Members?
The FWC’s work connects with their desire to regulate and protect the title of electrician. It’s helping to build that reputation, end bad practice and to be the type of sector that construction aspires to be. It puts them at the heart of the decision-making process.
It’s also got the potential to improve things around procurement and contracts. If contracts are packaged in such a way that more of our members can bid for them, then that’s good for them and the economy as a whole.
Electrical employers are some of the best. They take pride in their work, they pay their people well and there’s a sense of respect because it’s a highly skilled workforce.
We’re a great example but there’s always something more you can learn and always something that can be improved. There’s no complacency and it’s a great way of refreshing things.
How can SELECT Members find out more?
The inquiry group’s report, with all its recommendations, is now being written and it will be published in autumn. In the meantime, you can find out more about the work of the FWC and read its manifesto at its website, fairworkconvention.scot