In his opening presidential address last June, EFFC president Gianluigi Trevisani remarked that where the achievements of the EFFC to date had been in its technical output, it should now focus attention on commercial aspects. Issues such as prequalification and contractual relationships 'are the only way at our disposal to advance the foundation sector', he said.
EFFC's work in this area is directed through its contracts and qualification working group, co-chaired by Chris Harnan (responsible for contracts aspects) and Pierre Gardes (leading qualifications initiatives) both of Soletanche Bachy.
Essentially what EFFC is attempting to achieve through this is a fair and equal basis for procuring work which recognises the specialist subcontractors' need to protect their high investment in plant and technical expertise.
In detail Pierre Gardes' qualifications section is con- cerned chiefly with the issue of pre-qualification in the procure- ment of public works. It has set itself the Herculean task of influencing the European Com- mission's actions to harmonise qualification systems throughout Europe.
EFFC is aided in this task not only by the influence of some key members, but also through its dealings with FIEC, the European construction contractors feder- ation. Last summer EFFC became the first associate member of FIEC.
A qualification system has the potential to reduce the number of tenders and ensure that all qualified companies are capable of producing a sound job.
From EFFC's perspective 'we are looking for a qualification system where the emphasis in on quality, performance and price, and one which gets away from the situation today where initial price is the only deciding factor,' says Harnan. To this end EFFC is driving towards a system which allows for judgment of an organ-isation's capabilities, previous experience, capacity in both per- sonnel and equipment, financial soundness, quality and safety history.
Tempered against these ideals is an appreciation that the system must be flexible enough to allow growth and/or diversification. Understandably EFFC does not want to promote a system that has the potential to box its members off from developing in related work areas.
The big question to all specialist and main contractors in Europe is what governs whether or not a company is qualified to undertake a particular construction con- tract. This is being addressed within the framework of an EC mandate, dating from May 1993. This gave identical instructions to two organisations, CEN and CENELEC, to develop a single set of European Standards for the qualification of construction enterprises. CENELEC, the European Standards organisation responsible for electrical work, has completed work to produce a European specification. This is inevitably easier than the work of CEN, as it covers only one aspect of the construction industry, namely electrical work.
CEN has addressed its task through setting up TC 330, which has three separate working groups.
WG1 covers terminology and nomenclature of activities, technical and financial criteria and classification according to technical criteria;
WG2 covers matters such as administration and legal and financial criteria;
WG3 looks at application and assessment procedures, general criteria for qualification bodies and procedures for recording and providing information.
EFFC from the outset has encouraged its members to get involved with the drafting work of CEN. Throughout the process it has provided clear policy state- ments for members who achieve representation within any of the CEN committees.
Peter Shiells of Bachy Sole- tanche, who was heavily involved in qualifications issues for Sir Michael Latham's Constructing the team review of the UK con- struction industry, is convenor of Working Group 1 of TC330, and as such has to play an independent role in an attempt to achieve consensus.
His group is developing a classification of contractors on the basis of size, turnover, and type of activity. It has identified 16 specialised trades or work categories and two additional categories covering general contracting in either building or civil engineering.
Working Group 1 has generally proven to be responsive - at least in principle - to the requirements of specialist organisations. For example in the geotechnical sector the proposed work areas accurately reflect the range of activities.
Nevertheless TC330 appears determined to manage the obvious conflict between the interests of specialists and main contractors. Main contractors believe they should be capable of qualifying for all work, while EFFC, and other associations of specialist organisations, feel a contractor should only be qualified for work within their chosen category if it owns the plant and directly employs the labour to do the work.
The notion that a general contractor must have the ability to carry out a significant portion of the works is part and parcel of the ideology in much of mainland Europe - but does not fit in with the cul -ture of main contractors from UK, Eire, Hol- land and some other areas.