Construction body says it will step in unless unions and CITB-ConstructionSkills resolve dispute.

Leaders at construction body the Strategic Forum have warned the owners of the CSCS skills card scheme that they will intervene in the ownership dispute unless the future of the scheme is resolved.

Strategic Forum chairman Peter Rogers has written to unions the T&G and UCATT, employer bodies and CITB-ConstructionSkills, offering to mediate in the argument. The groups are at loggerheads over whether the CITB should retain financial control of the scheme or whether it should be independently run. Employers are backing the CITB’s involvement in the scheme.

CSCS is central to the Strategic Forum’s key policies and its leaders are becoming increasingly frustrated over the continued wrangling and may step in to force a solution.

It is also understood that the Major Contractors Group has threatened to withdraw from CSCS over the opposition from the unions and set up its own version of the scheme – a move that could prove highly disruptive for the industry.

Alan Ritchie, UCATT general secretary, said the running of the CSCS scheme – an ID passport for qualified workers – had to be clearly separate from the CITB. He said: “The trade union side does not agree with the latest CITB proposals for the future of the scheme.” Ritchie added that he welcomed the involvement of the Strategic Forum.

However, it is understood that the employer representatives are not so keen for the forum to become involved in the dispute. They want to concentrate instead on agreeing a business plan for its future, as demanded in the Bilborough report.

Strategic Forum member Stuart Henderson called for the CSCS owners to get on with the job of developing the scheme. He said: “The unseemly scrap is not in the best interests of CSCS or the industry.”

Construction minister Nigel Griffiths said that he would be monitoring the developments and was backing any efforts by the Strategic Forum to reach a solution.

A statement from the CITB said that at the last board meeting there was a discussion over the Bilborough report. Comments by CITB staff about the recommendations were detailed in an attachment. The statement says: “The board agreed to pass the attachment for information to CSCS. The union representatives disassociated themselves from this decision.”