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Ray's revolution is one to follow

RAY O'ROURKE and union bosses appear to be facing an uphill struggle when it comes to selling modern personal contracts to Laing O'Rourke's 6,000-strong site workforce.

For anybody outside construction this may be difficult to fathom.

After all, what is wrong with offering site workers the same job security, formal working hours and career opportunities as those enjoyed by the rest of the country?

But anybody who has tried to win the hearts and minds of the workforce well knows that hard-bitten attitudes about the 'right' to be self-employed are difficult to change.

What makes O'Rourke's task all the more formidable is the shift from weekly wage packets to monthly salaries, not to mention new working rates, which have the potential to alter earnings.

It is not surprising that grumblers are starting to surface.

Some complain of being steamrollered into signing up, others are just worried about being worse-off.

The devil was always going to be in the detail, which explains why O'Rourke is stubbornly resolved to getting its people on board.This determination on both the union's and employer's side is admirable because the stakes are high for everybody in construction.

What Ray O'Rourke is trying to do with his jobs-to-career plan is revolutionary, even if it is the norm elsewhere in business. It is something worth doing. It promises better productivity, a more professional and a happier workforce, not just for Laing O'Rourke but, hopefully, for the whole industry.

This explains why many contractors are watching intently from the sidelines. Sadly, the difficulties may cause a few to think twice about following O'Rourke's lead, when they should be jumping into action to build impetus for change.