Specialist contractors are calling on the government to create a single set of competency standards for the industry, in a backlash against onerous terms introduced by main contractors.

Rudi Klein, the chief executive of the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group (SEC), was due to raise the issue with construction minister Stephen Timms this week. The body will also discuss the problem with the Office of Government Commerce.

The move follows the introduction of a growing number of standards that specialists have to meet to qualify for work with contractors and clients.

The latest of these is a supply chain initiative launched by Bovis Lend Lease, under which subcontractors must pay £3,000 and meet a range of criteria on issues from sustainability to safety to be considered for work.

Klein said SEC had received a number of complaints from members about the rising number of schemes they were expected to follow, and the resulting expense and administrative burden.

The Treasury made an inquiry into this three years ago but nothing happened

Rudi Klein, SEC Group

He suggested the government introduce a version of the Trustmark initiative – a “quality badge” for domestic builders – for subcontractors. The government does operate a contractor-vetting service, Constructionline, but this is primarily for public sector work and has suffered from poor take-up by government clients.

He said: “The Treasury made an initial inquiry into this about three years ago but nothing happened. We need the government to step in so we can start a rationalisation process.”

Rod Pettigrew, head of the Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association’s legal division, echoed Klein’s concern. He said: “Our members are getting frustrated. This problem is adding cost to the industry as a whole.”