Unions attack CITB-ConstructionSkills for failing to sign up site level workers to card scheme.

The row over the control of the CSCS skills card scheme took another turn this week as it emerged that only 8.5% of craft workers hold a card.

Last week, construction unions on the CSCS board attacked CITB-ConstructionSkills over its accountancy procedures and administration of the scheme after it emerged that it was more than £5m in deficit.

Now the CITB management is being criticised by unions over the fact that only 8.5% of workers operating in the “biblical” trades of carpentry, plastering, bricklaying and painting hold CSCS cards.

CSCS chairman George Brumwell said: “The CSCS board is deeply concerned about this figure and our strategy in the immediate months is to focus on these sectors, where so much of the construction industry is employed. We would like to point out that penetration of CSCS cards in many other trades is in the range of 30%.”

The news that such a small percentage of trade workers hold CSCS cards has been greeted with incredulity by the unions. One senior union source said: “CSCS was set up for craft workers, for workers at site levels. However, 10 years on and the scheme only has a small percentage of these workers on board. What the hell’s been going on?”

He added that the CITB funds must be reallocated and prioritised to target site level workers.

It has come to light that the CITB has offered £25,000 to Brumwell so that he can develop a business plan for the scheme.

However it is not yet clear whether he will accept the funding or whether the CSCS management board will call for a complete overhaul of the way the scheme is funded. It is jointly owned by industry trade bodies and trade unions but the CITB controls its finances.

In a joint letter to Building this week, CSCS board members from industry bodies rallied to the support of the CITB. A joint statement from the Federation of Master Builders, the Construction Confederation and the National Specialist Contractors Councils said the organisation had played a pivotal role in the overall success of CSCS.

The letter said: “It has ploughed substantial sums of our levy payments into developing the scheme, including major investment in the CSCS call centre, its records centre and the training and assessment framework to support the scheme.

“At a recent meeting, employers and unions agreed to develop a strategy for continuing growth of the scheme. We are united in our commitment to developing the scheme, in partnership with unions and CITB-ConstructionSkills.”