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Divided we stand

FOR MUCH of the early 1990s this magazine, along with many other commentators, implored the industry to speak to Government 'with one voice' in order to increase its influence. With construction staring down the barrel of a recession and the industry viewed as divided and irrelevant by many in Government, a united front was essential.

This united front eventually arrived, manifesting itself in many ways, including a joint Budget submission. Construction finally had a clear, strong input into arguably the most important economic and political event of the year. Even more astonishingly, it appeared to have some effect.

But this year no joint Budget submission has emerged. Are we upset? Frankly, no.

The official reason for a lack of a joint submission was that there was too little time before the Budget for it to have any effect. This problem of timing does not appear to have worried the Construction Confederation, which posted its submission just two days before Christmas (see News).

This, of course, explains the Chancellor's mysterious absence over the holidays while all hell was breaking loose and the Euro was being launched - he was reading the CC submission.

The real reason why there is no joint submission is a lack of will on behalf of all but the materials manufacturers. Most significantly many felt that the draft submission smacked of the 'begging bowl' approach of old which helped win the industry its old self serving image.

This, as things stand, is not a cause for alarm. Employers' bodies that represent businesses are always likely to argue for more work and for directly advantageous legislation and regulation - it is the way capitalism works. This 'me, me, me' approach can be tempered by bodies, like the ICE, which represent individuals and can more easily propose what is good for society, as well as their members. The industry has finally become mature enough to take this twin track approach without undermining its impact.

The danger is further fragmentation and that the inclinations of the employer and 'professional' bodies get out of hand. Let's hope we don't have to change our tune again.

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