CIVIL ENGINEERS with pay problems could soon benefit from a dedicated advice service under an initiative being considered by the Institution of Civil Engineers.
The move comes in response to last week's call by NCE for action to raise civil engineers' salaries. ICE chief executive Mike Casebourne said the Institution was looking to set up a Professional Practices Committee responsible for members' welfare as employees.
The PPC, he added, would offer advice on pay, conditions, redundancy, setting up in business, insurance, legal liability and other employment issues.
The service could also be used by employers.
Vice president Michelle McDowell is being lined up to chair the group, while ICE director of professional development Mike Bruton and his team would provide executive support.
The PPC is likely to operate as a regional network as well as at national level. The initiative may be combined with the ICEFLOE equal opportunities group, also chaired by McDowell (NCE 15 June). Each local association would have an ICEFLOE representative, while volunteers with experience of employment issues would be recruited to assist.
Casebourne made it clear that the ICE would not 'act as a trade union' in negotiating directly with a member's employer. However, the PPC might enter into 'a brief dialogue with an employer just to understand a member's difficulty and offer a balanced view'.
ICE President George Fleming's call for a minimum starting salary of £18,000 for civil engineering graduates, and NCE 's campaign for the profession to address the pay issue, has sparked a flood of support from members (see Letters, page 18).
Rod Northway, an engineer from West Sussex, wrote to 'applaud' the ICE pay initiatives.
Another letter from Ronald Stewart said NCE 's campaign had 'done more towards raising salaries, and therefore the status of civil engineers, in a few months than their professional body has in the last 20 years'.
Further evidence of civil engineers' poor pay has emerged during research for the NCE 2000 Contractors File, due to be published on 27 July. Three out of five chief executives surveyed said civil engineers were underpaid.
Birse managing director John Elders said: 'It is a deep seated problem in the UK. People who build things are simply not valued.'