A row has broken out on the board of the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) over a plan to make it easier for Eastern European workers to obtain skills cards.

CITB–ConstructionSkills is currently piloting a scheme that enables workers to sit the CSCS health and safety test in Poland. Some union leaders on the board fear that this is the start of a push on CSCS in Eastern Europe, which they say would create skills shortages abroad and discourage the training of UK workers.

Alan Ritchie, the deputy chairman of CSCS and general secretary of Ucatt, has written to Sir Michael Latham, the chairman of the CITB, asking for clarification of the board’s stance on the accessibility of the cards in Eastern Europe.

Ritchie said: “The health and safety test is one aspect, but skills competency is another. I’m concerned that in a rush to bring in foreign workers the CSCS card scheme could be undermined.”

Bob Blackman, the national secretary for construction at the T&G, said: “There’s concern that CITB-ConstructionSkills should be focusing more attention on UK workers.”

In the rush to bring in foreign workers, the CSCS card scheme could be undermined

Bob Blackman, T&G

Trevor Walker, the CSCS’ chairman, defended the move: “We aren’t recruiting migrant workers – we’re recognising that there’s a flow of workers from those countries.”

The CSCS has also revealed that it will replace its cards with electronic smart cards which store workers’ details, including their qualifications and possibly health information, to prevent fraud. This will be phased in next summer, to coincide with the start of large Olympics projects.

The cards will also be available to industry professionals, including architects and quantity surveyors.