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Be kind-#bekindinflooring

Richard Catt talks about his hope that main contractors can reflect on 2021 and review their practices in communications for future projects.

I’VE recently received quite a lot of feedback from members regarding a decline in tone, conduct and professionalism in the construction industry. There’s certainly enough evidence for me to suggest our members have seen a significant rise in abuse from those that provide them with work.

I’m not talking about the odd slip of profanity used to stress a point, which some would still find offensive. I mean really angry phone calls, shouting abuse, where the whole tone and language is threatening and designed to cause distress.

Text messages and emails that make threats and outline penalties that will be applied.

Subcontractors being told they will be replaced on a job, leaving them unpaid and with unused materials. One contractor recently told me that this type of communication is often saved until late at night or weekends, when its impact on the recipient will be at its greatest, when it will disrupt free time, family life and potentially cause distress to partners. Another tactic to force an issue in the direction desired by the abuser.

There are links to other issues that are being more widely recognised and talked about these days, such as mental health and the disturbing number of suicides in construction. Our drivers, amongst other things, should be quality, safety, and professionalism.

Alongside delivering beautiful and functional floors, another outcome should be a decent living for a decent day’s work, based on a sensible work life balance. Nowhere, within any of those reasonable aspirations, is there a space for the depths of conduct I briefly outline above.

There are so many stories that it is overwhelming, and I suspect each floorlayer, contracts manager, estimator, administrator, and business owner will have their own examples. Coronavirus hasn’t helped, and Brexit is definitely a contributary factor. For many, or so I’m led to believe, this often manifests itself through delayed starts.

Not just a couple of weeks (that our sector has become used to managing) but in more recent times, months, and months. However, clients, main contractors and builders often still expect to be able to call off materials and labour under the original contractual terms. We all know neither are easily available at the drop of a hat, with a well-documented skills and labour shortage in construction and difficulties in sourcing some materials and arranging deliveries.

Build UK recently updated their work on Covid-19 and contracts and issued some helpful guidance on managing Covid-19 within Contracts. CFA have made this available to members through the members’ area of our website.

Its foundation is the principle of working collaboratively and that means avoiding conflict and escalation. It recognises the need to agree through the supply chain what can be achieved, rather than what cannot and negotiate a new position if needed. It moves on to what to do if that isn’t possible.

CFA have produced guidance notes for members, specifically aimed at flooring contractors to help start negotiations for a long-delayed contract. We also have legal helplines to further support. The guidance notes take into consideration that there are likely to be existing contracts/agreements in place, but which were never written with the circumstances now widely faced in mind. Build UK have offered to take up any specific cases where threatening behaviour has been experienced and the company is within their membership. We/they would need evidence.

I think there has to be a bottom-up/top-down approach with some old fashion values that guide everyone to behave professionally and return to a culture that simply does not tolerate excessive bad language, threatening behaviour and particularly conduct that bullies and frightens people into a response that suits only one party.

I’d encourage anyone that is on the receiving end of such treatment to challenge the person who is doing it and if not resolved, escalate until it is recognised as unsatisfactory and dealt with such that it doesn’t happen again. CFA will certainly support any members who bring these issues to us in whatever way we can.

If you consider this to be business as usual, I’d have to disagree and there are many indicators for me to the contrary. While I’m sure it’s not only our sector that is suffering, would you have seen so widely the type of notice accompanying this article that I snapped at a local builders’ merchants recently?

They are everywhere now. Like the first and important step of acknowledging mental health issues, which would have been seen as somewhat weak in years gone past, as this poster says, let’s openly promote a kinder approach to working together, both up and down the supply chain. Considering what we say and the effects it has on those we are speaking to and encourage them to do the same.

It does come down to some fairly simple principles, such as respect and just being kinder.
The CFA is a leading trade association representing the Flooring Industry. If you would like an application pack or further information on the benefits of membership, please contact the CFA offices.
0115 9411126

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