Sir, I was saddened by the letter from your 'cold and bitter tradesman'(Conditions in construction have not improved since the eighties, Letters, March 17) and on a wider scale by the impact views like this have on potential recruitment to this industry.
I would respond to his points as follows:
Health and safety. I can only speak for our members, but I know they take this extremely seriously and there is a keenness to get it right.We appreciate that in some cases there is a way to go, but construction companies who take it seriously are not as cost-conscious when it comes to expenditure as in other areas.Cynics may say this is a commercial decision. Poor H&S exposes companies to financial risk in terms of claims for injury or death, prosecution by the HSE, lost days due to staff sickness, recruitment and training costs to replace staff who have left or have had to be retired due to health issues ? the list is endless.But if positive action is taken for cynical reasons that's fine with us, we are not precious about motives.
Terms. If you are working under a contract of employment, then the employer is duty bound to pay you if you are available for work.Many construction companies contract to one of the collective agreements for construction, negotiated by employers and trade unions. If your contract has terms you view as unfair, challenge them. In a buoyant marketplace where skills have a good commercial value, vote with your feet.
Sick pay.The collective agreements for the industry make provision for industrial sick pay, and in my experience some employers who do not contract to the Working Rule Agreement for example still make provision for contractual sick pay, albeit with some length of service conditions.
Travel. Again, many employers have very good travel allowance procedures in place; the collective agreements also make provision for travel time and expenses.
Contractors who are federated do not necessarily have the resources to have a full-time human resources department but they have the advice given to them by their federation.Scottish Building provides the same service for all our member companies that any HR department would.
So how could you recommend construction to your 16year-old son? Simple: advise him to come and be an apprentice in Scotland.We have a long-standing, well regulated apprenticeship scheme which requires employment from day one.And if your perspective of construction employers in the south-east is accurate, maybe you too should come north and enjoy a better work-life balance.
Ali Morrow, Head of Human Resources, Scottish Building