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Contract conditions

EFFC's contracts section exists to review and agree strategies on contractual issues which are important to the majority if not all of the members. These cover the different contractual relationships and roles, which EFFC defines as:

Level 1 Contract between client and main contractor

Level 2 Contracts between main contractors and subcontractors

Level 3 Special conditions for specialist foundation works.

EFFC has documents which set out the main principles it would like to see in all contracts between a main contractor and specialist subcontractor, as well as a schedule of special conditions necessary for a contract with a foundation specialist.

These documents, which are available in English, French, Italian, and Dutch, and will soon be translated to Spanish, German and Greek, have been reviewed and updated so that they continue to represent the views of members.

'We want fair contract conditions, in which there is supply of proper information between parties, and in which, for example, the programme, delay criteria, hand over, warranties, payment and disputes resolution procedures, are clearly set out,' says Harnan.

However foundation contractors have reported difficulty applying these principles when negotiating with main contractors, and so EFFC has refocused the level 2 agreement as a list of priority issues when negotiations take place.

The work of the contracts section also ties in with FIEC which has three working groups of particular interest to EFFC. ECO-2 looks at fair practice and how to deal with abnormally low tenders. ECO-5 is equivalent to EFFC's Level 1 conditions, ie client/main contractor relationship, while ECO- 6 looks at subcontracting.

As for new initiatives, the major item for the coming year is to develop a standard joint venture agreement. 'Typically joint ventures are put together from scratch every time, and over the years the documents have become bogged down with legal jargon' says Harnan. 'A huge amount of time is spent reinventing the wheel. Our aim is to produce a standard text with appendices. Once developed it should prove a wonderful time saver.' EFFC is approaching the task by collecting standard national jv agreements where they exist, from which an EFFC master document will be produced.

Other initiatives in the current programme include a dictionary of common abbreviations specific to piling, which will also include definitions of common 'Eurospeak' acronyms, and a literature search on disputes resolution. This is to get a feel for how this is undertaken across Europe.

EFFC is also looking at issue of ground risk and where the risk for unforeseen ground conditions lies. Essentially the aim is to avoid the duplication of 'risk money'. 'Currently the delegation of risk is poorly understood and liabilities are inconsistent, and so everyone is allowing for it,' says Harnan.

EFFC feels risk should lie with the parties best positioned to take it ie a piling contractor is responsible for providing the foundation elements, but is not responsible if for example contamination is discovered at the site. 'We are specialists in piling, but at the moment we end up shouldering responsibility for anything that happens in the ground.'

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