Civil Contractors Federation want Your Money Spent on Them

On one of my bookcases I have a book written in the 1930s which my father donated to me in the 1980s, but which is still relevant today. It is called How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.

It’s message could be summed up as “be positive in all aspects of your life and you will be successful”, more or less. I surmise that the current President of the Civil Contractors Federation of South Australia, Mr Phil Sutherland, has not read this book.

One of the strangest letters I have ever received was from the the above gentlemen in April this year.

In this letter which was sent to all local government Councillors and Council CEOs in South Australia, the Federation demands that Councils pass civil works onto them, accusing Councils of taking work from their member companies; of which Councils comprise around 40 of their 550 members; or, rather, did, at time of writing.

The letter, a copy of which is at the bottom of this post, was written in a very aggressive style and amongst other things accuses Councils competing with their members for private work.

I have not been able to find in my research any Council in SA who has done this, so based on this apparently false premise, they continue to berate Councils and demand that civil construction work is handed all to them. What are we to do with the Council staff that we sack if we give in to these demands? Curiously, they don’t say.

They continue on in what can only be described as a rant, including a ridiculous and obviously false assertion that Councils employing their own staff and owning their own equipment is not good for the local economy.

I suppose paying more for contractors and them employing interstate staff makes us better off? Oh, that’s right, they don’t employ people from interstate or overseas. My time working in civil construction proved to me otherwise. I worked on the Adelaide Desalination Plant, SAHMRI and Tonsley sites amongst others and I was shocked at the high number of interstate or overseas based workers in the industry. That’s right, they moved around Australia (or the world) following the big paying jobs.

But even ignoring this, the CCFSA letter is simply insulting at best, and an illogical, irrational and ultimately counter productive diatribe at worst. It could be South Australia’s first ever essay on civil contracting rights.

The irony of this situation is that Councillors felt put out by the correspondence and less inclined to listen to the Federation’s wishes. If they had written “Dear Councillor, we all know the SA economy is in the you know what; could you please consider bringing forward some big projects so our Federation’s members could be employed” I think they would have received a very positive hearing.

As it is, no thanks to their misguided communication, it looks very likely that they will get their wish anyway, as some local Councils in SA look to borrow to undertake some big and necessary local infrastructure projects.

In Port Adelaide Enfield, our standard construction and maintenance programs are delivered by a mixture of in house staff and contractors – depending on what is best for cost, efficiency and level of expertise.

In other words, we choose according to value for money – would any resident/ratepayer expect anything different?

When we do choose to use a contractor, not only do we have strict and scrupulous procurement procedures in place, but Council added in an additional item to that mix so that local suppliers are used where the difference in price is less than a certain amount (not relevant for large tenders), and we assess their performance during and after the work.*

At the September meeting of Council I will be moving that Council look at investigating starting some needed infrastructure projects across Council, and to borrow to fund them whilst interest rates available to Council are at a record low. Most of these works would be undertaken by contractors due to the size and nature of them – which I am sure will please Mr Sutherland of the CCFSA.

In the meantime, Mr Sutherland, you can learn more about how to win friends and influence people here – and it’s free!

Two local media stories dated July 27th on this issue are here:

And a story dated July 30th:

The letter sent to Council itself is here: CCF Letter 270415

* The below effort was executed earlier this year by a Council contractor, not Council staff:

Oakden Footpath Tennis

PS For what it’s worth, I have supported the CCFSA in the past, choosing to undertake courses with their training arm, CivilTrain, for my White Card, First Aid and Traffic Control qualifications.

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