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Name and shame double standards

IF MARRIAGE is no longer for life, then partnering seems doomed to be an even shorter relationship.

The utopian dream of main and trade contractors working together in perfect harmony was always going to be a difficult one to pull-off.

Both sides made the right noises as the teachings of Latham and Egan were enthusiastically adopted by traditional adversaries.

Now the whole system seems to be coming apart at the seams as the two strands of construction operate in parallel universes.

In the perfect world, main contractors chose the best value subbies, and jobs are carried out in a spirit of cooperation and trust.

But in the real world, lowest price is still king and main contractors count the pounds before paying little more than lip service to the partnering concept.

Egan-inspired workshops, seminars and conferences are all well and good. But a few speeches and a decent lunch does little for the subbies who are still being screwed for every penny.

John Doyle construction chairman Stef Stefanou went public last week describing major contractors as 'old dogs' unable to learn the new partnering tricks.

And his fears are backed up in a survey commissioned by Hills Electrical this week. It discovered that main contractors are still awarding jobs on price alone and highlighted how little has changed in the industry.

This is not designed as an attack on the principles of partnering - far from it.

Anyone who fails to back a system of increased cooperation in the industry needs their bumps felt.

But talking about change and achieving it are two very different things.

The whole Egan movement has created a band of theorists who are dedicated to the cause but are too far removed from the commercial realities of everyday life on site.

It is time to name-and-shame major contractors who preach co-operation then immediately revert to their bad old ways. And if the government or industry will not do that, we as a newspaper will have no hesitation in exposing firms' double standards.