THE UK’s largest construction union is urging firms to “seriously consider” before voting to end the industry’s current training levy and plunging the future of the CITB into jeopardy.
Unite has warned against “throwing the baby out with the bath water”, adding that the potential disappearance of the training body would be “devastating” to the construction sector.
The comments come in the wake of an announcement last week by Balfour Beatty chief executive Leo Quinn, in which he confirmed the contracting giant was “likely” to vote against the CITB’s triennial Consensus due to what it considers to be a failure to provide the industry with the skilled workers it requires.
In order for the CITB to continue to collect the industry levy, a positive vote from construction bodies is required.
Unite said that while it has “concerns” about aspects of the CITB’s operation, the union believes the role it plays in apprenticeship training is “critical” and that the skills crisis currently engulfing the industry would worsen.
Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary of Unite said, “If the CITB is going to be able to cope with the challenges that the industry faces in the coming years, it needs to be radically reformed. For too long smaller companies which actually employ construction workers have felt they have been denied grants which are too often given to the major contractors, who have the expertise of applying for grants but employ few if any construction workers.
“Until the CITB is properly reformed and its governance structure represents the key stakeholders in the industry, including unions, professional institutes, employers’ associations and SMEs there will continue to be distrust towards the organisation.
“The CITB must create the impression it is operating in the national interest and not in the interests of big business.”
Sarah Beale, CEO of CITB, said last week that the reform of the organisation has already started and full details will be shared in November. She added, “Our biggest ever industry consultation held this spring suggests that a majority of firms, including the smaller employers that dominate our industry, broadly welcome CITB’s reforms. These include streamlining what we do to provide better value for levy payers, embracing the modernisation agenda to help all construction firms become more productive, and ensuring that standards, training, support for careers and our reformed grants scheme are in place to meet industry’s key skill needs.
“We have also made it clear that we will work closely with our industry, with employers of all sizes and across Britain, to agree our objectives and to ensure that we are held to account in delivering them. We are confident that a reformed CITB, with active support and challenge from industry, will be well-placed to meet construction’s challenges ahead.”