UK’s biggest union supports call for protection of title for electricians

Pat Rafferty, the Unite Scottish secretary

Representatives of both employers and employees have come together in Scotland to press the case with the Scottish Government for the protection of title for the occupation of electrician.

Unite the Union has written to Keith Brown, the cabinet secretary for the economy, jobs and fair work, to express its full support for the long-running campaign for recognition by industry bodies, a move which it is estimated could boost the economy by £58 million.

The union supported the Electricians Working Group which was convened at Holyrood following a concerted awareness-raising push by electrical employers’ association SELECT, the Scottish Joint Industry Board (SJIB) and the Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust.

Both sides of the industrial divide are asking the Government recognise the skills, knowledge, training, experience and qualifications of electricians and the vital role they play in the functioning of modern society.

They also ask the government to take into consideration the risk to public safety of unqualified or underqualified people being able to pass themselves off as electricians, especially when carrying out work for vulnerable householders.

Pat Rafferty, the Unite Scottish secretary, said: “Our members have expressed their frustration that people in such a safety-critical occupation are able to use the title of electrician when they have not met the established national and industry standards.”

SELECT commissioned a report from 4-Consulting on the economic impact of regulating electricians in Scotland which showed that protecting lives and property in this manner could save the country around £58m a year. It pointed out that 10 people were killed and more than 600 injured in electrical fault-related incidents in 2016 alone.

Newell McGuiness, SELECT managing director, said: “We do not want to leave people behind if they want to operate as competent and safe electricians and we have taken steps to ensure that there are a variety of ‘routes to qualification’ to make the profession as inclusive as possible.

“But we have to act as soon as possible to end the impact of poor and unsafe work and to give consumers confidence that the electricians they commission will be properly qualified.”

Fiona Harper, the secretary of the SJIB, added: “With this whole-hearted support from our industry partners Unite the Union, there is now a discernible groundswell of opinion in favour of regulation and in particular protection of title for electricians.”

SELECT’s 1250 member companies account for around 90% of all electrical installation work carried out in Scotland. They have a collective turnover of around £1 billion and provide employment for 15,000 people.

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