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Partner pressure


Nigel Curry's observations on the search for a definition of partnering confirms the view held in some circles that a dictionary is, indeed, the last refuge of the bewildered (NCE 31 May).

Until there is an acceptance that in general, contractors do not receive enough payment for their efforts, the debate will rage on. How many nonconstruction listed companies regularly turn in pre-tax profit results of less than 2%? Yet this level of profit is not atypical for our industry.

If partnering is the answer to raising margins, fine, but I do not think it is. Karen Gidwani is correct: the contract must be encapsulated in a set of binding legal obligations.

The key to greater success and harmony is for contracts to be awarded on a cost reimbursable basis. We must recognise that the contract for purchase of a civil engineering project is not analogous to walking in to a shop and buying a bar of chocolate.

In the former, the purchaser is on the front line with the contractor and can be exposed to all the difficulties encountered in realisation of the civil engineering product. In the latter, the purchaser is distanced from, and ignorant of, all the problems associated with supplying a bar of chocolate to the retailer's shelf.

G Bathgate (F), 51 Baron's Hill Avenue, Linlithgow, EH49 7JU

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