Why would engineers subcontract for £24 a service?

In his exclusive column for Installer, Heating Engineer Andy Gibbs does some digging into who’s behind the boiler service subcontracting invitations that installers often receive from agencies.

“Earn £240 a day. 10 services a day, £24 a service, in your area, must provide own van.”

You know the spam messages. They come at you all the time, emails, texts and phone calls, there’s always an agency trying to get you to do work for them, and it’s always ridiculously low prices.

Now normally I just hit the old block button and get shot of them that way, but this week, I had one, and it made me think: ‘Who’s at the top here, who is paying the money?’.

So I replied to them. Told them I was really interested and all that stuff, they promised me as much work as I wanted, 10 to 12 services a day, paying £24 a time.

Now I know you cannot do 12 services correctly a day, and I have a feeling the agency knew too.

Out of that £24, I would have to supply and run my own vehicle, be insured, be Gas Safe Registered, and supply all my own tools.  After a bit of rough working out, I reckon after-tax, you’ll be lucky to pocket £15 a service.

To carry out that number of “services” a day, corners would simply have to be cut, and cutting corners means cutting safety.

Let’s allow an hour per service if you ARE doing it properly.

So starting at 08:00 your 12 boilers a day would take you until 20:00. That’s without any time taken to get between jobs, or a break of any kind.

So effectively you would be doing at least a 15 hour day to do that lot properly. Never going to happen is it?

What will happen is you’d fly around, sling the analyser in, fill out the paperwork and get off to the next one within 15 minutes. I imagine these companies know that is what will happen. They’re selling a Boiler Service, but not giving people what I would consider a proper boiler service.

I needed to know more, I wanted to know who I would actually be working for, so I went back to the agency. I’m going to anonymise this because I don’t want to get in any hot water.

So the company I’d be working for, company X, was the one holding the purse strings. This struck me as odd, as it’s a nationwide subcontracting company that I have never heard of? Who are they? And more importantly, where on earth are they finding all this regular work all over the nation?

Still needing to know more, I dug around the corners of Google until I found my answer.

They subcontract to a large energy and install company. One of the big ones.

Now, of course, it all falls into place.

The big boys get the customer and take the money, and then palm the service work to another company, which then employs an agency to get people on board to carry out this work, for very little income.

For me, they are all leeches, skimming off their cut along the way, until some poor gas engineer gets the scraps at the end.

And not only does he or she get the scraps, but they also shoulder 100% of the responsibility when it comes to safety.

If anything goes wrong in a big way on one of these jobs, it will be the engineer that will be in the firing line, not the big companies.

This has to stop, and I do think it’s fairly easy.

If no one took this work on, these companies wouldn’t exist and trust me there would be no less boilers needing servicing. We’d all still have loads of work, and earn the right amount of money from customers prepared to pay to have the job done correctly.