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Some more bad news on licensing.


In June, I described the New Jersey law requiring persons or companies doing "engineering work" to be licensed professional engineers.

This threatens to restrict legitimate engineering and consulting that's been satisfactorily performed by telecomm pros. The statute implies similar acts by other states.

What worries me further is that organized labor is joining this fraudulent battle.

In Massachusetts, concern about excessive use of private consultants for state-related projects encouraged a union, the Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists. MOSES is placing on the state's November ballot a petition limiting state use of consultants.

Passage of this referendum could impact all forms of consulting, including telecommunications.

It requires that consultants be prohibited from state contracts unless at least 80% of deliverables are not covered by Massachusett's job title classification system. Only if "telephone network traffic engineering" is not a valid state job description can a consulting firm be hired.

Other proposed limits include:

* Competitive bidding on contracts over $25,000 (unless with an individual).

* A $100,000 cap on any state contracts for a consultant.

* A two-year contract limit (with a possible one-year extension).

* Limits on increases in consultant contract rates.

* Limits on consulting fees (seen as a function of total salaries paid by a department or authority the previous fiscal year).

* Banning consultants from managing state employees.

MOSES is concerned that extensive state use of consulting firms limits hiring of state employees. Passing the petition, they feel, would increase the state payroll (and union membership rolls) by over 40,000 new employees.

Unemployment Fears

MOSES points vehemently to the $85 million targeted for consultants involved in Boston's massive Central Artery/Tunnel (CAT) project--perhaps the most visible public service project in Massachusetts, where unemployment levels have grown noticeably in recent years.

MOSES wants CAT funds directed into employee jobs.

Opponents explain that consultants are used extensively in many parts of the state's human services agencies and hiring the projected number of new employees would increase state payrolls and overhead. At the end of a project, the state would still be paying the added employees.

With consultants, on the other hand, it's not responsible for paying health benefits and other overhead expenses. When a project is finished, so is the consultant's activity.

Of particular danger is the petition's unusually broad focus. Its original intent was to limit consultant usage only in certain areas such as engineering and technical services, but its vague language has turned it into a rolling juggernaut sweeping over a vast state network of social service agencies supported by consulting firms.

Loss of services provided by consultants, especially when translated into the time-consuming process of hiring over 40,000 new employees, could throw an already shaky economy into a tailspin.

Passage of this petition does not seem to menace the ability of the Massachusetts telecomm professional to do business with the private sector, but it could severely hamper your ability to do business with the state.

Consulting work you do for companies working for Massachusetts may suffer too, especially if they are cut off from state consulting contracts.

Jersey Law Unearthed

A New Jersey law (The Electrical Contractors Act of 1962) governs licensing of electrical contractors. One portion provides an exemption for work involving electrical circuits carrying up to 30 volts. Any electrical contracting work involving circuits over 30 volts (which includes most telephone circuits) is subject to licensing and inspection.

Also exempt are telephone companies, which for years monopolized installation of phone circuits. When the law appeared, telcos did most wiring associated with telecommunications equipment.

With divestiture, non-telco cable and wiring firms sprang up to install conduit, cable, inside wiring, and outlets. Unfortunately, many are not state licensed. Still the law remained overlooked, safely hidden away in Trenton.

Until recently.

Spearheading the drive for enforcement is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

It seems IBEW, representing thousands of telephone industry technicians, is trying to exert greater influence on telecomm vendors and contractors by insisting they be licensed and their work inspected.

Should widespread enforcement of this largely forgotten statute occur, interconnect companies and private cable and wiring contractors statewide could be idled almost overnight.

This could severely restrict telecomm managers' ability to obtain electrical work at competitive rates. Consultants could lose business as well.

While licensing and inspection of any kind of electrical and/or construction work is desirable, the telecomm industry has unique attributes which must be considered.

The American legislative process appears woefully uninformed on the nuances of our industry.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Communications Management
Author:Kirvan, Paul
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:column
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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