The Demolition Contractors’ Association? Er, isn’t there already one of those?
You’re thinking of the National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC), which has been on the scene a long time – more than 75 years in fact – and has solid relations with other industry groups both in the UK and overseas, and with the Health & Safety Executive and other statutory public bodies. It may not speak for every single demolition contractor in the UK, but it is clearly the established voice of the demolition industry.
So why the new association then?
The Demolition Contractors’ Association seeks only to represent firms based in, or working in, Scotland.
A Scottish nationalist breakaway? Splitters!
Not exactly. But while Scotland did vote to remain in the UK, many things are done differently from the way they’re done in England – the legal system, procurement, funding, apprenticeships. There was a strong feeling that a more local representation was needed, especially since Scotland Excel centralised local authority procurement.
Who’s behind it?
Chairman of the Demolition Contractors’ Association is James Caldwell, director of JCJ Group. The executive is provided by the Scottish Building Federation (SBF). The inaugural meeting was attended by representatives of 20 specialist demolition contractors from across Scotland.
James Caldwell? Isn’t he an NFDC man?
Very much so. He has been a member for nearly 25 years and says he has no plans to leave it. He’s emotionally attached: “It would be very difficult for me to give up,” he says.
So why not just have a Scottish branch of the NFDC rather than a new organisation?
You mean like there used to be?
Yes but I ask the questions…
Caldwell hankers for the days when the NFDC had a regionalised structure and actually employed SBF’s secretarial services in Scotland. But the regional secretaries were scrapped in a restructure about 10 years ago, which some lament. Caldwell says that the SBF has much better access to the Scottish government and local authorities – ear to the ground, finger on the pulse, and all that. The NFDC, based in Hemel Hempstead, is no longer structured to offer Scottish members any political clout, he says. “We feel we want something local with people that we know, that have routes through to the government,” Caldwell says. “Construction as a whole is devolved in Scotland.”
If it’s just about Scotland, why isn’t it called the Scottish Demolition Contractors’ Association? The name rather suggests it might have UK-wide ambitions, in competition to the NFDC.
Caldwell has a good answer to that one. “It is the Demolition Contractors’ Association under the umbrella of the Scottish Building Federation. We did look at this and think how many ‘Scottishes’ do we need to put in here.”
He says there is no intention to be anything other than a Scottish organisation. If English, Welsh, Irish or even Venezuelan companies did want to join, it might be hard to blackball them, but no effort will be made to recruit them, nor will they be offered any services of interest beyond Scotland.
You mean anyone can join?
Not quite. Just like the NFDC, the DCA wants to protect its reputation and prospective members are vetted. There is a two-stage assessment process: first there is a financial probity check, and then there is a demolition competence review. Given that anyone with a hammer can call themselves a demolition contractor, professional bodies like these don’t want to be seen to be associated with the cowboy end of the sector.
What does all this cost? Isn’t it a wasteful duplication, having yet another trade association? I thought the Scots were meant to be…
Don’t say it!
…I was going to say smart with money.
And indeed many of them are. Caldwell says that joining the SBF was, for his company, a no-brainer. It’s £1,000 a year, regardless of size, and they offer HR support, legal support and dispute resolution services. They’ll chase up retentions for you and there is an office in Falkirk you can use for meetings. “All it takes is one employment issue or one dispute with a contractor and you’ve paid for it,” he says. “It’s a saving, not a cost.” Which is why JCJ has been a member of both the NFDC and the SBF.
So what does the NFDC do then?
The NFDC does offer support to members, but its core focus is much more on professional standards, competency and training than business support services.
Have Scottish demolition contractors been rushing to join the new organisation?
It’s still early days but CDA already has roughly as many members in Scotland as the NFDC. Many, like Caldwell’s firm, are members of both. NFDC’s website lists 18 members that are based in Scotland, plus two prospective new members with audits pending. Caldwell says that CDA has signed up 19 members out of a catchment of probably 40 or 50 potential members operating in demolition in Scotland on a professional level.
What does the NFDC make of all this then?
To quote chief executive Howard Button: “The NFDC board do not consider any comment for or against the Scottish Association of Demolition Contractors as being appropriate.”
This article was first published in the April 2018 issue of The Construction Index magazine, which you can read for free at http://epublishing.theconstructionindex.co.uk/magazine/april2018/
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