Friday, March 20, 2009

Relationships - Levelling the Playing Field

When a contractor enters into an agreement with a client, a relationship comes into being. The conduct of these two parties plays a major role in determining whether or not this relationship will be a satisfactory one. One of the fundamental truths about relationships is that that they need constant managing.

Regular and clear communication is essential to manage the many expectations that arise out of a building contract. If issues are addressed early and comprehensively, they are not likely to escalate and become disputes.

Unfortunately that is not all there is to it. Contracting parties often do not operate from positions of equal power. It is not uncommon to find that clients seem to be in a stronger bargaining position than contractors. This makes sense when one considers that clients create the work opportunities and contractors compete for the work.

Problems arise when clients, and their agents, abuse this inequality of power to impose unrealistic and inequitable demands on contractors, whether this is in the tender specification documents or once work has commenced.

Examples of this type of abuse are many and varied:
• Contractors are effectively forced to contract out of some of the protection afforded to them in terms of standard form contract documents;
• Contractors are forced to accept unfair decisions by principal agents;
• Contractors feel pressured to work to unrealistic deadlines, often compromising workmanship;
• Sub-contractors don’t get paid timeously;

Another from of abuse is poor, defective or delayed performance on the part of government or other statutory authorities. Contractors are often reliant on permits, approval or some other from of authorisation to perform their work. When this is not forthcoming , the contractor is prejudiced.

The Master Builders’ Association has launched a campaign designed to keep the playing fields as level as possible on behalf of its members. We are engaging with bodies representing clients, the built environment professionals and the authorities to take these issues up with them.

If you are aware of, or being exposed to, unfair actions which are causing you hardship, please contact us. We are there to assist.

Brandon Abdinor
Executive Director


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