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Channelling thoughts

28 May 2013


When like-minded people get together, things tend to go well.


Writing about the state of FM on the Channel Islands, you get a sense from those on Jersey and Guernsey that the collective will to bring about the launch of the latest BIFM regional branch has since set off a wholly positive chain reaction: more sharing of knowledge, better training, a sense of relief at establishing common areas of concern.

The simple act of getting the branch going has awakened an enthusiasm among local FMs – as well as the simple awareness of who works where. Jersey-based Sue Leonard, who works for ISS on behalf of Barclays, told me, “It’s an island of 45 square miles; you’d think I’d know a lot of the FMs. But of the 60 people present, I knew perhaps seven.”

So the actions of a few in setting up the group have awakened the enlightened self-interest of others, now emerging from the shadows. I wonder if the merger talks between the BIFM, Asset Skills, The Facilities Management Association (FMA) and Cleaning & Support Services Association (CSSA) will lead to a similar awakening?

Make no mistake, there are some tricky obstacles ahead of any successful merger of these bodies, not least in what might seem like competing primary interests. For example, can the BIFM as an individual membership organisation incorporate the aims and objectives of the CSSA, its membership comprising the largest contract cleaning employers in the UK and its aim to promote outsourced cleaning service provision?

How does the FMA, a trade body comprised primarily of organisations, merge with a membership body comprised mainly of individual practitioners? The place in this potential alliance of Asset Skills, by contrast, appears the most immediately understandable – although what happens to that organisation’s non-FM obligations is up for debate.

Matched against these obstacles is a genuine desire to clear away any excessive organisational noise and give government, the public and the wider business world a single, fully inclusive representative body. The prize is a big one: “greater representative influence and increased prestige for individuals within the industry”.

So the trick will be in treating institutional obstacles as mild speed bumps in the road, not red lights that bring an end to the journey. In truth, the overlap in common interests is so significant that it should be comfortable enough to outweigh any concerns about outstanding issues, and there has been an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the announcement of the merger talks from across the profession.

So what next? For now, the project is being driven by a steering committee consisting of the chairmen and CEOs of the four organisations. From a BIFM perspective, any agreement for merger would be put to membership for review and endorsement through an extraordinary general meeting.

The BIFM board will discuss progress at its next meeting on 31 May and report to members after that.

Exciting times? Quite possibly.

So if you have an opinion, now is the time to share it with the institute. The BIFM has set up an online form for you to air any views you may have and you can find it here.

Martin Read is managing editor for FM World