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Working time opt-out must be maintained

LETTERS

Sir, I would like to add to the debate about working hours and the shortage of qualified crane operators.

Mick Norton states that there are thousands of CPCS card-holders with their card endorsed with a crane category and therefore there cannot be a skill shortage in this area (Letters, September 8).

As Mick is a former member of the CPCS management committee, one has to assume that his figures are accurate.

But it is important to look at the wider issues.

There are many CPCS card-holders who are inactive, either because they have left the industry or they hold several categories but operate only a single type of machine regularly.

The average age of crane operators is high due to a lull in the training of new crane operatives over many years.

This issue is being addressed, but there is still a high number of mobile crane operators due to retire. When this is added to early leavers and natural wastage, the position looks fragile.

There is a tendency for younger operators to want fewer working hours but with higher pay, despite the fact that crane hire rates are still relatively poor.

I agree to some extent that there may be sufficient mobile crane operators in the industry but there are not nearly enough willing to work the often antisocial hours needed to supply demand.

No one wishes for excessive working hours but I believe that the Construction Planthire Association's Colin Wood is right to say that it is in our interest to retain the opt-out.

Ian Fisher, managing director Ainscough Training Services Leyland, Lancashire