As the new President of MEBSCA, Niall Bourke spoke to Construction Editor Brian Foley about the challenges facing the sector.
It barely seems believable that five years on the construction industry is still only talking about the benefits the Construction Contracts Act will bring, yet that’s where we are as summer 2015 approaches and the final steps to full implementation of the Act are still to occur.
“The appointment of the Chairman of the Adjudication Panel is a big step so now it really is a matter of when, not if, “ says Niall Bourke. While welcoming the imminent arrival of the new Act he says it won’t solve everything.
“It won’t replace good business relationships,” he says, “but it will be an excellent tool for us to use and will help with payment discipline.”
The MEBSCA President also spoke about the recent Government contracts review that, he says, will be “good for the services industry”.
“The changes bring brought to Government contracts will make for a better tendering process,” he says. “Making the bill of quantities the primary reference document for the pricing of public works tenders for projects designed by the contracting authority is a key measure.
“The introduction of the option for a separate tender and agreed subcontract for specialist works contractors is good for the services sector.”
Taking the two issues together – the Construction Contracts Act and the contracts review – means the environment for sub-contractors is more positive.
On the general economic outlook, Niall says talking to members he thinks there is more optimism about the future. “These are still hard times for a lot of our members but the economy is picking up. We need to work together to ensure the upturn benefits all our members throughout the country”
MEBSCA member firms probably employ more direct staff than any other sector in the construction industry so Niall’s views on Construction Industry Register Ireland are interesting.
“It’s critical that members get behind CIRI,” he says. “During the recession the sector was tarnished even though our staff have always received comprehensive and on-going training.”
He says the CIF has done a “great job” getting CIRI to where it is today. “I don’t think any other organisation could have done that,” he says.
He thinks the register will help build reputation for individual companies and the industry as a whole.
“CIRI recognises the fact that we are a sector that trains its staff and who have proper systems in place, so I’m optimistic about its future,” he adds.
“I would say to members that not being on the register will be a disadvantage,” he says. “As well as moving to a statutory footing, the sooner you’re on it the sooner you can sign the ‘BCAR’ certificates which will likely require CIRI Registration Numbers.
The next big issue coming down the line, he says, will be industrial relations, “but let’s get the Construction Contracts Act out of the way first”.
A current issue, voiced by CIF President Michael Stone, is attracting young people into the industry, which is echoed by the MEBSCA President. “Education is vital to the industry,” he says “and I would say to members we need to do all we can to help the CIF in its drive to promote the industry to students for apprenticeships and professional careers”
Ultimately, he says, construction is a good industry: “It has excellent training and is a great trade and profession.”
This interview first appeared in the June/July issue of Construction magazine