Open-access content Monday 1st June 2009
Richard Byatt reflects on the BIFM and the people that it represents.
4 June 2009
This issue of FM World is published in the week of the English local and European elections and against the backdrop of the MPs' expenses controversy. So it's an appropriate time to talk about representation. Who, if anyone, does the BIFM represent? With over 12,000 members, the institute is certainly engaged with a significant percentage of FM professionals. However, can it claim to "represent" them?
The BIFM is often asked for its view on developments and issues. Such contact ranges from formal government consultations on proposed legislation, to journalists seeking the FM angle on a story.
The BIFM's mission is to "advance the facilities management profession" and, in responding to enquiries, the institute tries to present the FM professional's viewpoint. This can be characterised as determining the best way to support the core business; seeking value for money and considering longer term costs and benefits, as well as short term impacts.
As an association with corporate as well as individual members, the BIFM is also well-connected to the supply side of facilities management. For a professional body, as opposed to a lobbying or pressure group, representing commercial interests can be fraught with difficulties.
A headline caught my eye last month - "Leading businessmen launch protest group against Heathrow's third runway." If you had assumed that the "business community" was united in backing a new runway at Heathrow, this would have come as a surprise.
Of course, there is rarely unanimity on controversial topics, even in groups with supposedly common interests. Consider some of the issues in the world of FM and support services - Tupe, the Working Time Directive, minimum wage, apprenticeships, PFI, mandatory carbon trading - it would be hard to find a consensus on any of these among BIFM members.
What the institute can do is to listen carefully to the views of members, expressed at group meetings, networking events, in online forums and surveys, letters to this magazine, working groups and through Members' Council discussions. The BIFM will try to find the centre of gravity, likely to be a pragmatic rather than a dogmatic position, and communicate that as effectively as possible.