Posted on Jul 12, 2007
John M Grau
NECA member Jerry Hayes of United Electric in Atlanta sent a question in response to my recent post “Executive Committee Meeting Recap.” In that post, I said that the committee had taken action to make the Code of Excellence Category I language. Jerry responded with his perspective on what including the Code of Excellence in Category I language would mean. His message clearly expressed similar thoughts I’d heard from other folks, so I was glad that he graciously agreed to let me post both his question and my response to him on NECA Transmissions.
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“To me, it looks like the 'Code of Excellence' is another article in the agreements that says labor will do what they are supposed to do. Aren’t we giving trouble-makers a list of things to use as excuses that they could not perform? What do we hope to get by having this a Category 1 language? I am doing this in my shop, but only with my supervision. That is where it counts.”
- Jerry Hayes
Jerry raises a good point about the Code of Excellence becoming Category I language. Just because something is good in one area doesn't mean it's good for everyone. In this case, however, I have trouble seeing a downside.
First, for clarification, the Category I language we're suggesting would be enabling language that would state that each area should develop and adopt its own Code of Excellence with some minimum guidelines.
Therefore, what's contained in the jointly agreed-to Code and how it is enforced should be customized for each area.
Second, the Code of Excellence is not just for labor. It establishes obligations for employers, employees, NECA chapters, and IBEW locals.
And you're right in that it really only says that everybody will do what they already are supposed to do under the local labor agreement. Asking labor to give eight hours work for eight hours pay isn't a novel concept. Neither is suggesting that it's the contractor's obligation to see that the job has proper tools and materials.
What is important is that both parties to the labor agreement all state in writing that they intend to live up to the spirit as well as the letter of the agreement. Instead of giving trouble-makers a list of excuses, the Code of Excellence takes those excuses away. We can clearly see changes in areas where both parties have embraced the Code and made it their own; they have experienced a dramatic improvement in the quality and attitude of workers.
Basically, it’s all about attitude. Poor worker attitudes and the resulting poor productivity is the number one complaint I hear from our member contractors and construction users. Based on what I’ve seen, the Code of Excellence offers a good way out of this destructive cycle. This leads me to the reason for adopting the Code of Excellence across our industry by means of Category I language.
If we're serious about reforming our industry, we need to make some broad-based changes. Attitudes can be contagious. As they spread and are adopted by others, they form an industry’s culture. We want our industry’s culture to be positive, productive, and customer-oriented – not negative, self-centered, and doing the bare minimum.
The construction user community is aware of the Code of Excellence, and they view it as one of the most positive changes in the union construction industry recently. Many are demanding that all of the union trades working on their jobs adopt a Code of Excellence similar to the one we’ve pioneered here. Our plan is to be out in front of the pack. We want to be able to tell our customers that our whole industry works under the Code of Excellence, no matter how large or small the job is. I see only good things about being able to do that.