Unions demand measures to address construction industry's problems

In May 2002, on the initiative of the SDGDS construction workers' trade union, the Economic and Social Council of Slovenia (ESSS) discussed the urgent problems of the Slovene construction industry, SDGDS wants to prevent the current wave of dismissals in this sector, along with a deterioration in pay and working conditions. Both employers and unions have called for government action to support the ailing construction industry. The ESSS set up a tripartite working group to examine the matter.

On the initiative of the Trade Union of Construction Industry of Slovenia (Sindikat delavcev gradbenih dejavnosti Slovenije, SDGDS), affiliated to the Union of Free Trade Unions of Slovenia (Zveza svobodnih sindikatov Slovenije, ZSSS), the Economic and Social Council of Slovenia (Ekonomsko socialni svet Slovenije, ESSS) discussed the urgent problems of the Slovene construction industry at its session on 8 May 2002. SDGDS wants to prevent a further deterioration in the social and economic conditions of construction workers and achieve improvements in this area. Above all, SDGDS wants to stop the current wave of dismissals in this sector, pay cuts and worsening of other working conditions. Because the present problems of construction industry cannot be solved by the employers and trade unions alone, SDGDS demands that the government and parliament urgently take the necessary measures.

According to data from the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia (Statisticni urad Republike Slovenije, SURS) in 1987 around 76,000 workers were employed in the construction industry. In 1995, employment fell to its lowest level, at around 40,000. In 2000, the figure had risen to 57,400, but in 2001 it fell again to 56,834.

According to Borut Grzinic, secretary of the Construction and Building Materials Industry Association (Zdruzenje za gradbenistvo in industrijo gradbenega materiala, ZGIGM) at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia (Gospodarska zbornica Slovenije, GZS), the situation of the construction industry in 2001 (as presented in the Slovene Economic Mirror published by the Institute for Macroeconomic Analysis and Development) worsened in relation to 2000. He stated that the main cause is the slow progress of the national programme for the construction of motorways. In a report submitted to the ESSS, Tea Petrin, the Minister of the Economy explained that the reasons for this slow progress are unexpectedly high costs on certain motorway sections and a lack of budgetary funds for these purposes.

A further factor in the construction industry's problems is that, with the gradual opening of the market domestic companies are faced with foreign competition. The consequence of the fall in activity and of the restructuring of companies is a higher number of dismissals. Due to the economic situation and the necessity for flexible adaptation, construction companies have predominantly employed workers for a fixed term, and it is these fixed-term workers that have been the first to lose their jobs. For the most part, these workers are from the republics of the former Yugoslavia and former Soviet Union and from some other eastern European countries. In 2001, one of the largest construction companies made redundant 450 workers out of a total of 2,500. In 2002, the same company expects to shed another 900 workers. Another large company has dismissed 77 workers out of a total of 472, and other companies are announcing redundancies too.

The main solution demanded by employers and trade unions is that the state must ensure the stable financing of infrastructural and other national building programmes. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that domestic and foreign firms can conduct their activity on an equal footing. It is also seen as necessary to simplify and shorten the procedures for obtaining a building permit, in order to promote investment and building activity, especially because in 2004 financial means from the National Housing Saving Scheme will become available.

ESSS adopted a decision to nominate a tripartite working group to prepare a joint document on the construction industry. The Ministry of the Economy will lead the preparation of this document with the cooperation of the Ministry of Transport, Ministry for Labour, Family and Social Affairs, Ministry for the Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy, and representatives of employers and trade unions.

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