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Union Warns of ‘Rogue’ Scaffolding Scheme

19th September 2017

Unite, the UK’s largest construction union, has criticised plans for a new Scaffolder’s card scheme which it says will decrease standards and lead to Scaffolders needing different types of skills card for different projects.

It is understood that the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB)  is in the process of developing a new scaffolding card scheme and their decision to do so is believed to have arisen from pressure applied by several offshore maintenance companies.

The proposed scheme is thought to be intended to compete directly with the existing Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme (CISRS), the UK’s longest standing and most renowned competence scheme for Scaffolders.

CISRS cards

The ECITB scheme appears to be a direct result of the CISRS scheme introducing their CPD scheme for Scaffolders, which was introduced following pressure from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who criticised the scaffolding industry for not ensuring the ongoing competency of Scaffolders. The HSE’s concerns were raised after they recognised an increasing trend of serious incidents involving Scaffolders whose competence was questionable.

Unite has been successful in ensuring that workers covered by the NAECI agreement and on other individual sites, will be fully paid while taking the two-day course and the cost of the course, travel and accommodation will be met by employers.

Speaking of the proposals, Bernard McAulay, Unite’s National Officer for Construction said:

“The proposal to introduce a rogue scaffolding scheme is bad news for workers. It will affect standards and create confusion on sites. With workers regularly moving between sites it is also likely to hit them in their pockets as they will be forced to purchase two different cards, to ensure they are able to accept job offers.

The creation of a new card is not about improving standards and has everything to do with a few employers, principally those working offshore, wanting to avoid paying scaffolders for the training they need to ensure they remain fully competent in the work they do.

Our members are not going to accept this attack on their skills and their pay packets. The employers behind these proposals are being placed on notice that these proposals are entirely unacceptable.

Scaffolding is one of the most safety critical roles in the construction industry and we should be ensuring that standards are being pushed up, rather than watered down.

In recent years there has been a great deal of effort in reducing the number of construction card schemes, in order to improve standards and to avoid confusion and it now appears that the ECITB is prepared to chuck that good work out of the window to appease a few penny pinching employers.”

Simon Hughes, Simian’s Managing Director said:

“It seems clear that the proposed card scheme has evolved as a direct backlash against the introduction of the CPD element of the CISRS scheme. The merits and benefits of refresher training every five years have been widely debated and the early feedback from the overwhelming majority of delegates has been extremely positive.

Employer organisations should embrace the positive benefits of CPD for their businesses and support their employees in maintaining their knowledge and skills, in line with existing national agreements and legislative requirements. In what has proven to be a very fast changing industry over the past twenty years, the importance of ensuring a Scaffolder’s currency of knowledge cannot be overstated. In addition to the obvious safety benefits, there are also other operational advantages, including technical knowledge and the learning of new skills.

There are over 63,000 workers that hold CISRS qualifications in our industry, and the achievements of CISRS over the last forty years has contributed in making British scaffolders the envy of the world in terms of competence, standards of workmanship, quality and safety. I find it surprising that this appears to be undervalued  by some employers. By launching an alternative scheme and potentially just ‘picking the easy fruit’, there is a risk of diluting the standards of competence in our industry and entering a race to the bottom, instead of welcoming change.

We’ll await details of the proposed scheme with interest, but on the face of it, the introduction of an alternative card scheme that doesn’t demand the same high standards as CISRS, could be a huge retrograde step for our industry.”

Those wishing to book a Scaffolder CPD Refresher course, can do so here, or by calling 0345 602 2418.