The Movement for Innovation needs to keep site operatives better informed if it wishes to improve the industry’s image, a top union official told Monday’s conference.

At a break-out session on education and training in construction, Bob Blackman, building, construction and civil engineering national secretary at the Transport and General Workers Union, said that on union visits to demonstration project sites, some employees were ignorant of the fact that they were participating in a national, government-backed initiative to improve the industry.

“A number of projects were visited and a number of site workers were not aware that the workforce was involved in a demonstration project. This is counter-productive,” said Blackman.

“The industry operates on a diluted line of management through labour agencies and self-employment and over the years it has become almost impossible to involve the workforce because it is so casual. We have got to change that culture.”

Blackman also said that the industry’s poor site conditions, bad safety record and lack of a diverse workforce had contributed to a lack of skilled labour.

“Employees judge companies by the way they are treated by those in authority – not just by pay, but how they are treated as humans. The industry has to throw off its Cinderella status and not just recruit people but look after them. This is the modernising challenge,” he said. However, the union leader welcomed the launch of the Movement for Innovation’s site conditions checklist, which is expected to go some way towards improving site facilities.

The Site Welfare Toolkit and Pocket Checklist will be used by site managers to measure the performance of site facilities on a week-by-week basis. The list covers all aspects of site provisions from the provision of hot and cold running water to the availability of protective clothing.