NECA TransmissionsNotes from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry

Code of Excellence Conversation Continues

Posted on Jul 25, 2007 by John M Grau

The Code of Excellence continues to generate debate. Here’s a comment I received from Bob Kohlmeyer, Governor of NECA’s Long Island Chapter:

Personally, I am ashamed of the fact that we may post a Code of Excellence in our agreements.

It is the single most embarrassing document we could publish, in my eyes. It basically admits to the industry and mostly the customer that all these years we have been "sticking it" to both the contractor and the customer. And now because we have lost the market the union wants to put its tail between its legs and say we won't use abusive words, we won't use drugs or drink on the job, we will start on time, work all day, limit our lunch breaks, keep our coffee breaks (a privilege, not a requirement, by the way) to 10 minutes. Well, GEEE thanks!

Oh and by the way, Mr. Employer, you have rules to give up proper supervision, tools, etc.

Please just let us run our companies and our jobs. Just ask the workers to come to work on time, work hard all day, and go home. The IBEW really do not need to make any deals or promise to our clients just show up on time, work hard for 8 hours, and go home. Is that to much to ask? Do we really need empty promises written in our contracts?

Bob, I completely understand what you’re saying – aren’t the old-school values of a fair-days-work for a fair-days-pay good enough to get the job done? I recently reminded my seven-year old son that when I was his age, I had to get up at 5 a.m. to pick berries at the neighbor’s farm. Where I grew up, working and doing a good job were expected.

Why do we really need something that should be common sense written into contract language?

I know from my conversations with customers that we don’t have to be embarrassed about establishing a code of expected conduct and performance from our employees. Poor worker attitudes are not confined to unions or electrical construction. Our customers have the same problems of inspiring their employees to consistently perform well. So far, they have been applauding us for understanding the problem and taking a progressive approach to solve it.

I don’t think any of us are saying that all workers are bad apples. Many don’t understand the full impact that their behavior has on the job. Our workers are paid by the hour – some of them don’t understand why not showing up to work one day in the middle of the week actually costs the employer anything. That’s why we need to educate them about the contractor’s side of the job. We can do this through the Code of Excellence. 

Your last paragraph says it all. “Ask the workers to come to work on time, work hard all day, and go home.” The values expressed in the Code of Excellence are exactly that. The workers’ union is endorsing that concept for the entire industry. I think we should applaud them for it.

I’ll end with a comment I received on the same post from Ron Autrey, Governor of the North Florida Chapter:

If a breakthrough in cancer treatment at a Florida institution is released, should we only let people in Florida have access to it?

The concepts of excellence in work efforts are universal. The same is true for the Florida Initiative. Like the Code of Excellence, we initially tried the Florida Initiative on a few jobs, at first.

The flexible terms provided by the initiative were also universally desirable. Flexible work weeks, physical 40, portability, [and] variable crew ratios are all the things contractors have wanted for years.

If some areas elect not to embrace this historic opportunity for change, then they will lag behind in their success and will accelerate their loss of market share.

In 30 years, I've never seen a better spirit of cooperation between labor and management. A small group of IBEW leaders like Eddie Dedmon, Jim Rudicil, Jerry Coonahan, and Ed Hill have brought about great change with the cooperation of NECA and NECA members in Florida.

I truly appreciate the time that both Ron and Bob took to respond to my original post. Their comments demonstrate that this is an important issue worthy of debate.

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