Friday, November 14, 2014

Good riddance to the worst scaffolding firm in the world!

On Tuesday this week, 1st Scaffolding returned to the estate to "strike" the scaffolding they began putting up at Wilshaw House on 18th August but never completed because they were 'sacked' three weeks in. During those first three weeks they made as much noise as it is possible to make on a building site (which we are not). As we reported almost a month ago, they were given the push when MITIE, who had employed them, 'discovered' the firm was not licensed. Apparently, Ist Scaffolding have enjoyed a long term relationship with MITIE but no one has ever actually checked their credentials. How many other estates have had to endure their behaviour?

A dispute followed, with residents kept in the dark about what was happening. At the end of October, Lewisham Homes' newly and specially appointed Major Works Project Manager informed a small  TRA meeting (and no one else) that the preference was for Ist Scaffolding to return to finish the job rather than take it down. This would mean that the other (much quieter and more professional) scaffolding firms that have since been employed on other blocks would not have to rebuild it. It would be quicker to finish what had been started than to have it taken down and rebuilt. But this was not to be.

Having had unalarmed half-finished scaffolding up on their block for the past THREE MONTHS with no work actually taking place on it, Wilshaw residents will now have a brief respite before another company begins building platforms around them again – with a further predicted EIGHT months to be spent in the dark. In the intervening period, scaffolding on seven out of Crossfields' nine blocks has been completed. Wilshaw was supposed to be the first, but now they will be the last.

If that was not bad enough, Ist Scaffolding's return on Tuesday at 8.15am meant more intolerable noise for residents as the men shouted their way through the dismantling job, led by their foreman – the loudest of them all. They banged and clanged as they literally threw pipes and planks to the ground. Complaints fell on deaf ears. The MITIE Resident Liaison Officer did not consider the noise a problem and was only concerned to know if the men were swearing or not. He has obviously never read Lewisham Council's Guidelines on Best Practice. Never mind that these cowboys were laughing like hyenas (the foreman especially), removing their hard hats (daring the rest of the crew to throw poles at them), singing pop tunes loudly and badly, and generally taking the piss.

Despite the complaints, 1st Scaffolding continued in the same vein the following day, from early in the morning till around 3pm. No attempt was made to shut them up, and they could be heard from the main road.

On Thursday morning, there was quiet, with no shouting and no pole clanging. One might have assumed they had finished the job. But no, the foreman and a much smaller crew were on site again to take down the last bits of scaffold. However, this time they were being watched by four or five management types. It seems that finally someone at Lewisham Homes or MITIE had taken notice, and it was great to see the gobby-mouthed foreman going about his work quietly, lifting poles and planks without banging them, and with his mouth clamped firmly shut for once. (However, MITIE / Lewisham Homes insist it was a different company doing the 'strike').

Unfortunately, they have left all their poles and planks piled up all around Wilshaw House – the recently dismantled ones are now added to the ones that never got put up that have been taking up valuable parking space for months. When they come back to pick it up, no doubt they will use their loud fume-emitting unsilenced diesel HGV with the engine powered hoist – because they are too lazy to lift the stuff themselves or use pulleys like the other scaffolding companies. Strange that the other companies do not have to leave their stuff here overnight like this lot. In most cases, they bring what they need and use it, only using a small space to store overnight.

Perhaps Ist Scaffolding are exceptionally cheap – this could be why they were MITIE's firm of choice to work here. We were told a few months ago by Leasehold Services that there is a set fee for the scaffolding – so MITIE were possibly making a dirty fat profit out of Ist Scaffolding, and the more professional firms now being used are eating into their dirty fat profits. MITIE's role is to outsource, to sub-contract, and they can't even get that right. But do MITIE get thrown off the job? No. They are "partners" with Lewisham Homes. More on that another time...

Update 19th December:
Lewisham Homes / MITIE gave 1st Scaffolding till 2nd December to move their stuff out of around 25 parking bays. If they didn't meet this deadline, MITIE would move it for them. The deadline was not met. MITIE promised to remove the stuff themselves on Wednesday 10th. That didn't happen either. Five weeks after the Wilshaw scaffolding was struck, the poles and planks were finally removed today (or at least most of them!).

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