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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Contractors see loopholes in Panagiotou's proposal for illegals – “We bear no responsibility”

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<p data-block-key=After the first round of consultations in the Labor Consultative Body on the measures to deal with undeclared work, the contractors, despite the fact that they agree with the general approach to combating the uncontrolled phenomenon, express their disagreement in some details of the proposal of the Minister of Labor, Yannis Panagiotou, as they consider that the contractors themselves are the victims.

It is noted that among the proposals that have been put on the table, there is the legislative change for the imposition of extrajudicial fines thousand euros for each case of undeclared work, the inclusion of liability to the main contractor in addition to the subcontractor, for cases of undeclared work and the doubling of the out-of-court fine in case of a possible repetition of the violation with a new case of undeclared work.

Thus, taking into account that the contractors themselves will also be punished, for cases of illegality on the part of subcontractors, the president of the Association of Building Contractors of Cyprus, Stelios Gabriel, expressed the opinion to REPORTER, that “the proposal in question has some issues and we need to find ways to solve it, so as not to end up victimizing contractors, who may not know the details of subcontractors' employees at the given time”.

However, the contractors recognize the problem that exists with undeclared work or partially undeclared work in the construction industry, where people seem not to be declared to the various state funds and social insurances. “We are against undeclared and illegal employment and will take the necessary actions for the proposal put forward by the Minister of Labor, regarding the responsibility of the contractor and the subcontractor, however, we must see to what extent the responsibility of the contractor actually is”.

For example, as Mr. Gabriel explained, in an unannounced inspection at a construction site, when the employee of the Department of Labor Relations detects an incident of undeclared work and issues an out-of-court notice to both the subcontractor and the contractor, since the contractor can hold all the necessary permits, contracts and social security, but on this particular day, maybe the subcontractor took two more people to help him who are undeclared, why should the contractor be held responsible, he wondered. “Every construction site, whether it's small or big, should have a person who will check and record anyone who enters it. However, we consider this to be impossible,” indicated the president of the contractors.

It is worth mentioning that today, there are about 10,000 construction sites and most of the small-scale contractors, according to Mr. Gabriel, employ about five people, who may not have even finished school. “Not all these small companies have a civil engineer who will inform them of the documents they need to have. So, such a decision will create a chain of problems for us and we feel that by shifting the responsibility of the subcontractor to the contractor, it will perhaps be a bit unfair. There are gaps in the proposal and we need to see how it will be amended.”

If the cheap solution is the persons who work illegally, Mr. Gabriel, underlined that, “surely, undeclared work creates unfair competition in the industry and we must see how we can limit this phenomenon, since two-speed contractors are created. We are clearly in favor of the proposal, but we want to crack down on undeclared work. We must find the right formula and not victimize contractors who are not responsible, as they are not aware. It must also be made clear that it is not only in the construction sector that this problem occurs, but also in other branches of industry”.

It is also noted that from the side the contractors, have brought their proposals and concerns before the Minister of Labor and are awaiting the new consultations of the responsible minister with the employers' organizations OEB and KEBE to see the outcome of the bill, which is expected to be tabled before the Parliament.

However, according to the numbers quoted by the Minister of Labor, it appears that of the 34,900 foreigners aged 17 to 65 who are in the country as holders of international or supplementary protection or as applicants of asylum, contributions are paid to the Social Insurance Fund for only 8,402, which correspond to approximately 24% of the total. Thus, questions are raised about the rest and whether they work in a professional branch as undeclared.

Source: reporter.com.cy

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