James Wates urges members to act over the fallout from industry blacklisting
The chairman of the UK Contractors Group, James Wates, has written to its members to urge them to act over the fallout from industry blacklisting.
In a letter sent last week and obtained by Building, Wates (pictured) said UKCG had previously “at members’ behest, not taken a leadership role on the blacklisting issue”, but this now had to change.
The letter follows scathing criticism of UKCG and its director Stephen Ratcliffe by MPs when he gave evidence on blacklisting to the Scottish Affairs committee last month. Wates told Building last week that he was in favour of a new UKCG and industry-wide code of conduct to help deal with the fallout from the scandal.
In the letter, he went further by explicitly calling on members to act.
He wrote: “UKCG - and the wider industry - has had more bad press this week on the issue of ‘blacklisting’. The issue will not go away in a hurry despite the fact that we have made it plain that it is wrong.”
Wates contrasted the UKCG’s response to blacklisting with its 2009 response to the Office of Fair Trading investigation into cover pricing “where we had some success by seizing the initiative”.
He called for such an approach to be adopted on blacklisting and other reputational issues, adding: “I think we need to demonstrate much more clearly that the industry is intolerant of blacklisting.”
Wates revealed initiatives already under way include “raising with government the idea of contractors bidding for public sector contracts having to sign up to a code of conduct”.
Read the full letter below.
UKCG – and the wider industry – has had more bad press this week on the issue of “blacklisting”. The spotlight on this issue is obscuring the good work we have done on health and safety, diversity, environmental issues and apprentices.
The issue will not go away in a hurry despite the fact that we have made plain that it is wrong and would be stamped out were it ever to re-occur. UKCG has previously - at members’ behest - not taken a leadership role on the blacklisting issue. This was in contrast to the work we did on OFT- where we had some success by seizing the initiative.
That is is the approach I would like to adopt- not just on blacklisting but on wider reputation issues so that, in future, we can have a mechanism to deal with these issues speedily and effectively.
Firstly, there are specifics we can do on blacklisting. I think we need to demonstrate much more clearly that the industry is intolerant of blacklisting.
- UKCG is already talking to CIPD about a code of good vetting practice;
- We will be raising with government the idea of contractors bidding for public sector contracts having to sign up to a Code of Conduct
- Reiterate via the trade press that there is already a grievance procedure to consider the claims of current blacklisting under the CIJC Working Rule Agreement
- Formally request views from members on whether there are other things we might do.
Secondly, as part of the strategic review I am conducting of UKCG, I intend to consider how UKCG could play more of a role on reputational issues. The strategic review has now finalised the respective roles of UKCG and CBI and staff are looking at the detailed work plans to ensure we keep focused on only the most important issues. I would now also like feedback from members on the longer term lesson to be learned.
My proposal is that we need to find and implement a mechanism for dealing with reputational issues at an early stage with clear and effective planning and delivery.
This intent will be supported by a budget to provide both legal and external communications support. Subject to your comments, it is my intention to propose to the UKCG board the formation of a special committee to identify and deliver exactly what support we need and how to get it.
If this is agreed clear TOR will be established so that members can be clear on both (1) the process for raising issues and (2) how these issues would then if deemed suitable be raised with the wider membership.
I would welcome your views on both of the proposals above. I will seek to speak to a number of members on this over the coming months.