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Commercial Flooring News

Appeal To Down-Trodden Installers

FLOORS are there to be walked over, but why do main contractors think this applies to the installer too? It’s true though, take a typical construction; the architect designs it and submits his plan – he gets paid; the bricklayer comes along and builds walls – he gets paid; the roofer arrives, installs the roof – he gets paid and in general, so too do all the other trades.

However, when it comes to the flooring installer, being a finishing trade and therefore one of the last on site, by this stage most of the money is gone and so in addition to installing the floor, he has to engage in a pitched battle with the main contractor to get paid for the job.

Of course it’s never a simple ‘no’ to payment, it’s this bizarre contractual dance we have to engage in where excuse, after excuse is thrown at us with the end goal of delaying payment as long as possible. This has

to change!

With this in mind, I thought I would follow on from my last column, in which I considered ‘payment terms’ to be one of the biggest challenges facing the flooring sector. As I referenced back then, the National Specialist Contractors Council (NSCC) is aware of this through much lobbying by the CFA, and they would like to see it change. But in order to do this and lobby government, they say they need evidence.

What flooring contractor will put his name to a project he is working on and say this main contractor won’t pay up? It could be commercial suicide or at least might ensure that the flooring contractor never works again for that said main contractor. I don’t blame anyone for the silence as the main contractors have us over a barrel.

So what can we do and by ‘we’ I mean the CFA? Well, l suggested last time that maybe we need some sort of charter and the more I think about it the more it makes sense. Maybe the charter should be part of what we are as CFA members and if a customer chooses to use us because of the benefits our membership brings them, they should also agree to our terms.

Here are some initial thoughts on what the CFA Charter should include:

1 . We are a CFA member so therefore we require 30-day payment;

2 . We will complete the job to a quality standard, which as we are members you can have verified by the CFA, should you wish through the free dispute resolution ser vice;

3. Ifweconsistentlydemonstratewedon’t fit floors to a quality standard, then the CFA will terminate our membership. Please revert to point one.OK so this is straight off the top of my head and without any consideration of the legalities and practicalities, but I think it has legs.

Of course charters work both ways and I’m not suggesting for one moment it’s some sort of all-encompassing document that deters people from working with us. Rather I think it should state what is reasonable. It should be there to level the playing field and give something to both parties.

I think this would be a bold first step towards driving up standards and at the same time ensure levels of quality are delivered, benefitting the main contractor.

The way I see it, the customer needs the job done, often to a tight schedule, at a reasonable cost, and to a given standard. If the customer chooses a CFA member he has probably arrived at the decision following a pre-qualification process where the benefits of membership have offered some level of confidence that a job will be done right. Is it not therefore reasonable for us to ask that in return for these benefits, they adhere to reasonable terms and conditions and commit to them in writing?

This is where a charter could work and binds formally both the installer and the main contractor to a level of conduct and that’s got to be good hasn’t it? It’s also a supply-chain issue, which extends to include manufacturers and distributors, and who knows – maybe it should extend to cover the whole of the construction sector? Maybe later!

So there’s my first draft, what else should be in this charter? Well, I’ve just thought of one more point – from an installer’s perspective, as a CFA member, I will ensure my fitters are trained to recognised standards (FITA) and that the job will be delivered on time (excluding delays out of our control).

With a little bit of effort I reckon the charter might actually be something the CFA can get its teeth into and which might deliver something that can help us all make doing business easier. Of course, there will always be those that treat the charter with the same contempt as they do payment terms, so I believe the charter must be bundled with consequences. I would say that all contractors should JOIN THE CFA, as this is the best way to start getting tougher with main contractors.

The CFA is a good source of intelligence on who you should or shouldn’t be working with.
You also get free credit checks, which might suggest how likely you are to get paid and if they fail to cough up consistently, then should you really be working with them?

If, despite your due care, they still won’t pay then make your CFA membership work – contact the CFA and they will try to intervene and apply pressure or you could invite them to use the dispute resolution service.

Failing that, the CFA has a legal helpline, which will give you a steer on the situation and assist in starting the process of legal proceedings, which itself might prompt payment. And don’t forget the free templates available such as Terms & Conditions and letters which will help establish contractual terms.

I could go on, as all these challenges are not going away, and if we don’t do something now to stop them, they will only get worse. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, it is your industry and it is in your power, with the help and collective voice of the CFA, to make a difference and change the way we do business. I await your suggestions.

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.