Construction Industry (Employment)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:30 pm on 24th May 2000.

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Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Labour 5:30 pm, 24th May 2000

Johann Lamont has done the Parliament, Scotland and Glasgow a service in highlighting the issues in this debate, and I am glad to have the opportunity to speak. I will be brief.

Johann Lamont mentioned the construction industry's contribution to the economy, its significance in providing jobs, the safety issues that are involved and the role of the unions, all of which are important. I want to highlight one of the issues that is mentioned in the motion—training—as it is extremely important to ensure that the construction industry provides the skills base for our young people in Scotland.

Robert Brown referred to the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee, which received evidence from the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians. Alan Ritchie attended one of our meetings and highlighted some of the concerns that are pertinent to the proposed housing stock transfer—not least in relation to the skills base of craftsmen and women in the work force. He cited an example that stuck in my mind.

A Scottish Homes direct labour organisation employed, on average, 100 apprentices a year. Following the sell-off to Mowlem Construction, however, no apprentices have been taken on by that company. That is a serious issue. The role that is allocated to direct labour organisations by Glasgow City Council—which guarantees 70 apprenticeships a year for boys and girls—is something that we want to protect, as are the unique training facilities at Queenslie.

The role of direct labour organisations in urban regeneration is important as well. As part of the new housing partnership, the Castlemilk Economic Development Agency is working to ensure that local labour clauses are inserted in the contracts of the contractors—currently Miller Homes. We have heard that those sorts of relationships cannot be formalised, but they can. One of those clauses states:

"It is an implicit condition of this contract that apprenticeships are offered to young people residing in the G45 postcode. The contractor is to select the applicants in association with Castlemilk Economic Development Agency and is to fully indenture them for the requisite period governed by Scottish Building Apprenticeship Scheme Rules and Regulations."

That is a clear example of Castlemilk Economic Development Agency working to secure employment and training for local young people. That action is not unique to the construction industry, and shows what can be done if the will exists.

In areas such as Castlemilk and Pollok, it is extremely important that the jobs go to local people. My example is taken from Glasgow, but the problem is Scotland-wide. Wherever the new housing partnerships and other construction projects are under way, I hope that companies are at least encouraged, if not forced, to ensure that, as far as possible, the jobs are allocated locally.

There is a caveat, however. If the skills base is not there, the jobs cannot be allocated locally. Robert Brown was right to highlight the fact that, if the housing stock transfer in Glasgow goes ahead, it will require many jobs over a number of years. The apprenticeships must begin now, to prepare for that and other construction projects in Glasgow.