Electrical industry: The crisis we face! PART ONE
The year is 2012 and a slightly younger version of myself is preparing for the first day of the rest of my life. How many times have you heard the age-old phrase “get a trade and your set for life” and here I was, a golden opportunity handed to me not through what I knew but rather who. Its fair to say I was one of the lucky ones who not only got myself an apprenticeship, but with it a mentor who had seen and done it all to guide me along the way, the “old boy” passing the torch to a younger generation in the hope that his wisdom will live on.
Fast forward to now, 2018, now a qualified electrician with experience in all disciplines of electrical work and having worked on some big jobs (Goldman Sachs bank, Facebook HQ, Westfield re-development) I start to notice a growing trend that truly is worrying. The use of agencies! Certainly not the only problem we face as a trade but by far one of the biggest!
The problem with agencies for me is twofold.
Firstly, most agencies have absolutely no idea about the electrical industry or what it takes to become qualified. Because of this the dangers of putting workers who are not capable of carrying out electrical work into electricians’ jobs are not understood or worse not cared about. Some of the work I have seen completed by qualified electricians (on paper at least) scares me to the core. One worse than that is of course the unqualified workers employed to do electrical work that is by far too advanced for someone who is un-qualified yet keeps happening job after job I go on. Not only does that present the obvious dangers (just look at white hart line*), it also drives wages down, creates a hatred between qualified and training electricians and stops people getting qualified correctly as they are already earning a rate which is frankly amazing for someone with little to no experience as an electrician. Let’s not forget becoming qualified is the first step on the ladder and experience is king in this trade.
Secondly, the money taken from the worker is an absolute scandal and must be stopped! Let’s start the rate at £30 per hour worked for an electrician on an 8-hour day. The agency that is supplying labour takes 20% which takes it down to £24 per hour, not a bad wage to most but for an electrician who takes 4 years to get qualified (law school takes 3) I think we deserve more. Of course, you then must pay a payroll company up to £25 a week for the pleasure of receiving your wages, travel, tools, training and take into consideration any holidays and other time off. Its clear that without the middle man we would be far better off but even with agencies we should be getting a better deal.
It’s clear to both me and the union committee that action must be taken and we are working tirelessly to achieve better rates and working conditions. Educating the industry as to who should be undertaking different types of work and the consequences of carrying on ignoring the dangers is also key and we all have a role to play in that.
We should take the white hart line job as a warning, because if the industry carries on in its current direction the consequences will be dire.