If you have questions, queries, brickbats or praise for any local contractor then those need to be directed at the Electrical Contractors’ Association of South Africa – an employer organisation registered in terms of the Labour Relations Act. The ECA(SA) is a non-profit entity focusing on serving the industry and generating funds to sustain it.
Established in 1950, the ECA(SA) represents members and their interests in the labour relations area and in the technical and regulatory mechanisms governing the Electrical Industry. Membership of the ECA comprises approximately 3000 electrical contractors, manufacturers and distributors of electrical components and equipment.
The Eastern Cape chapter of the ECA (SA) is under the guiding hand of Michael Straton. A browsable list of reputable Port Elizabeth electricians that belong to the ECA can be found on the ECA web site.
Michael obtained his National Diploma in Electrical Engineering (heavy current) at the Port Elizabeth Technikon in 1987. His education started at Grey Junior School in that city and he matriculated at the then Technical High School (now known as Newton High), class of 1984.
A provincial swimmer in his day, Straton qualified as an installation electrician in 1990. He achieved systems integrator status in 2002 and became a KNX partner in 2009, and a TAC systems integrator a year later.
He describes himself as a “second generation” electrical contractor, with his late father having started Straton Company in 1966. This, he says, cultivated in him a fascination with the “unseen wonder” of electricity. He was trained up through the ranks of his father’s business during school holidays until he finally took his place in management.
Today, Straton is a member of the ECA regional committee, chairman of the National Labour Committee, a trustee on the electrical industry region AB pension and provident funds, national vice chair of the Electrical Bargaining Council and second vice president of the ECA.
He singles out as his greatest professional challenge the lighting control system implemented at the Nelson Mandela Bay sports stadium, built for the 2010 Soccer World Cup tournament. The system is based on C-Bus and controls around 85% of the lighting in the stadium including the field lights.
The biggest challenge facing the electrical contracting industry today, says Straton, is training. Our pool of skilled artisans in this country is diminishing rapidly and not enough is being done to skill and train people sufficiently.
The Industry Training Board provided training with no capital outlay by companies, but the advent of the SETAs brought much confusion with different systems and smaller companies found it difficult to train people.
“We need to get back to a system which incentivises employers to train artisans.”
The lack of representativeness of the labour unions in the industry is another source of concern. This, says Straton, has an effect on collective bargaining in the industry, which sets equal conditions of employment and minimum wages and benefits for all in the electrical industry.
To Straton, the time has come to ensure that effective and cost-effective training is urgently made available to industry.
Portions of this article first appeared in the Vector Magazine published by EE Publishers.