Electrical contractors unite

An urgent meeting called for all electrical contractors on 7 May led to the formation of the Cayman Islands Electrical Contractors’ Association.

The meeting followed one called by government entities on 30 April to advise contractors of pending revisions to the Electricity Regulations. That initial meeting brought to the surface a number of issues that contractors needed to discuss in more detail, said Alan Roffey, chief executive of AndroGroup Ltd, who arranged the second meeting.

‘I arranged this meeting because I want to continue the momentum of the meeting we had last week,’ Mr. Roffey said to the attendees.

One of the key issues expressed during the meeting concerned a request from the Electrical Board of Examiners asking all active electrical contractors to be licensed in accordance to the The Electricity Law (Revision 2005) and the Electricity Regulations (Revision 2005). Although the law and regulations were passed in 2005, they were not enforced.

On 19 November, 2008, the EBE issued a press release through Government Information Services advising the electrical contractors they would have to submit licence applications by 27 February 2009 and that after 31 March 2009, the Building Control Unit would no longer conduct electrical inspections for non-licensed electrical contractors.

The 31 March license application deadline was subsequently extended to 30 April and contractors were told the BCU would not conduct inspections for non-licensed electrical contractors after 19 May 2009.

The licence applications were required of all electrical contractors, even those who have been in business many years. The requirement has caused some frustrations and anger, including with Peter Phillip of Phillip’s Electrical Ltd.

‘I’ve been doing electrical work in the Cayman Islands since 1971 and I was turned down because I didn’t have a letter of reference,’ he said.

Electrical Board of Examiners Chairman Rob Duty said the board was trying to get all of its files up to date and in compliance with the law. He said the main thing the board wants to make sure all contractors have is a trade and business licence.

Building Control Inspector Charles Alberga, who also spent many years working in the private sector, explained the situation from his perspective. He said he was aware of the fact the board – when he was chairman – had been given legal advice saying it was operating outside of the regulations.

‘[The Electrical Board of Examiners] is trying to bring themselves within the regulation,’ he said. ‘They’re trying to push the industry forward and make it proper. They’re not a group of guys trying to beat you up. They’re trying to do things the right way, they way they should have been done from the start.’

Mr. Alberga said the Building Control Unit and electrical contractors should work together ‘hand in glove’. He said the BCU should not be working against electrical contractors, but were there to serve the industry.

The meeting also addressed other pending revisions to the Electrical Regulations.

Ministry of Planning Deputy Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn, who attended the meeting along with Department of Planning staff, said the Ministry had decided to have a one-month consultation period to listen to suggestions from the electrical contractors before implementing the planned revisions.

Mr. Roffey suggested the contractors form an association so the industry could have a cohesive voice to talk to various government entities about their concerns.

Mr. Alberga gave the idea of a contractors’ association his blessing.

‘An association would be, in my personal view, a very good thing,’ he said. ‘It’s high time the electricians put forward a voice that says what they want.’

Mr. Duty agreed as well.

‘I think it’s a good idea,’ he said. ‘A lot of things can be accomplished if everyone works together to accomplish it.’

Ms Ahearn also said a contractors’ association was a good idea, and added that it could help the industry attract young Caymanians into the field of work.

In the end, 21 contractors signed the Memorandum and Articles of Association on the night of the meeting.

Even though not all electrical contractors had representatives at the 7 May meeting, Mr. Roffey said all contractors were eligible.

‘I will be encouraging them to join personally,’ Mr. Roffey said of those who weren’t there.

Beyond being able to speak to government with a unified voice, Mr. Roffey said the association could have other benefits including: representing the electrical industry in discussion about the types of contracts used with other disciplines in the construction industry such as architects and quantity surveyors; facilitating discussions between various construction industry stakeholders about how to control avoidable costs; and providing forums and non-trade training to help with better business practices for aspiring contractors.

Mr. Roffey said the electrical contractors’ association could also improve business ethics in the industry and provide expert opinions for dispute resolution.

The new association held its first general meeting on 21 May and elected a board of directors that included: Mr. Roffey; Peter Bradshaw; Allan Moore; Elsmer Rankin; and John Forster.

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