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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

The trade unions insist on legislative regulation of the construction industry contract

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The unions SEK, PEO and DEOK persist in their demand for legislative regulation of the wage of new entrants in the construction industry, in order to effectively deal with illegal and undeclared work. According to what they stated at the KYPE, this request does not seem to be satisfied by the framework set by the Minister of Labor and Social Insurance, Yiannis Panagiotou, for his mediation proposal for the renewal of the collective agreement of the sector, in the meeting he held with the social workers partners on Wednesday.

On the other hand, the Federation of Associations of Construction Contractors of Cyprus (OSEOK) states that the framework set by the Minister is very favorable for the workers, since, as they told KYPE, it gives them more than they asked for, except for the issue of legislative regulation.

The General Secretary of the PEO Builders' Union, Michalis Papanikolaou, told KYPE that the unions requested the assistance of the Ministry, in order to stop the phenomena of labor relations deregulation and contract violations.

As he mentioned, during the meeting, the Minister presented data, after an investigation in the Social Insurances, which prove that the salaries declared in the Social Insurances are below the minimum wage of the contract of the builders, and many times below the national minimum wage . “There is a terrible violation. So, we, justifiably, asked for support to stop this violation,” he said.

“The way we recommended and we insist on recommending, unless others find us convincing ways, is the support of those who agree with a legislative regulation in the Law on Employed Persons, as was done with some other benefits in the past year”, he said.

He noted that in the framework set by the Minister on Wednesday this did not exist, “so we do not agree”, he said, stating that the three trade unions will meet together on Tuesday, to make decisions about what position they will present at the general meetings of the workers. According to his assessment, the proposal presented to the general assemblies will be to take more dynamic measures.

Mr. Papanikolaou clarified that today, the non-implementation of the contract by employers, does not result in consequences. “Because the salary is a key element and it is what is mainly violated, while the amount is agreed, that is why we insist that the issue should be legislated,” he said.

Regarding the terms of the contract, Mr. Papanikolaou said that “we are asking for the reinstatement of what has been cut since 2012.” On this issue, he stated that the Minister expressed his intention to include the demands of the trade unions in any mediation proposal.

For his part, Stelios Tsiapoutis, General Secretary of OOIMSEK-SEK, said that at Wednesday's meeting, the Minister announced, after 25 months, the framework for the agreement between the two sides. “Regarding the incorporation into the law, for the legal establishment of the minimum hiring wages, the proposal made by the Minister does not satisfy us, we do not agree. We wanted there to be something specific, as we had requested. The discussion lasted 22 months on this specific issue”, he said.

He added that in the framework set by the Minister, which will be given in writing next week, have been included some important parameters, regarding undeclared and declared work and the deviation of the wages paid in the construction sector in relation to the wages recorded in the Collective Agreement.

In addition, he reported that the Minister said that the tools are in place, through which any violations will be checked, noting that the Ministry seems to be willing to proceed on the ground with specific checks. However, he noted, “this does not satisfy us” as, he said, the problem arises because the minimum wage of the sectoral agreement is not protected by law.

“The legal regulation is the one that will solve the problems and for the implementation of the contract by everyone and for the waste of money that is made in all the funds, and the workers, but also the state funds”, he said.

< p data-block-key="cdaj3">He added that the legislation would entail penalties for those who do not implement the convention, either a fine, imprisonment or both, and the penalties should be dissuasive.

Mr. Tsiaputis pointed out that with regard to the financial demands of the trade unions and based on the Ministry's framework for renewing the contract until 2027, “it was expected that somehow a solution would be found”.

In turn, the Secretary of the DEE of Builders of the DEOK, Stelios Efstratiou, told KYPE that the framework given by the Minister did not contain specific numbers. “As a framework it sounds good to me, but something is left out,” he said, referring to the inclusion in the legislation of guaranteeing the wages of new entrants to the construction industry.

Regarding the possibility of taking measures, he said that “everything is possible”, noting that the measures are not an end in themselves, “but we do not rule them out”.

On behalf of the employers' side, Stelios Gavriil, President of OSEOK, stated that, according to the framework presented by the Minister on Wednesday, it seems that all the requests made by the unions, based on the collective agreement, are adopted, “maybe more of them that were expected to be given,” as he said. This, he noted, “we also see positively, as the contract will be on a longer horizon”.

On the other hand, he mentioned that some serious requests he had made the employer side, such as the modernization of the collective agreement, were not included in the framework.

However, he noted that “we will end up renewing the Collective Agreement, with the rationale of cracking down on unfair competition, undeclared, partially undeclared and illegal employment”. He said that “we are strict on this matter and we must be correct in our obligations towards the state and keep what was agreed”.

Regarding the position of unions to legislate the issue, Mr Gabriel said any request for legislation is a separate discussion from the conclusion of a collective agreement.

“Legislation will not accomplish the goal,” he said. He noted that four points agreed between the two sides have already been legally enshrined. “You can't after two years say I want something more than what we agreed on,” he said.

Beyond that, he added that “we want to solve the problem. We have ways,” he said, citing as an example the creation of a staff card, which can be checked, rather than a law that “if I find you breaking, you will pay a fine.” He noted that the issue of cracking down on undeclared work, which leads to unfair competition, must be addressed by the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Home Affairs, regardless of the industry contract.

The primary goal, he said, is “to give the workers an increase in salary and some other benefits, which will raise their standard of living”, taking into account that the construction sector is currently on a growth path.

Mr Gabriel said the Federation would discuss the framework set by the Minister within the next few days, noting the possibility that they would ask for a few days extension from the date of the next social partners meeting with the Minister, originally set for July 17.

After Wednesday's meeting, the Minister of Labor and Social Insurance, Yiannis Panagiotou, had stated, among other things, that his mediation proposal would include “specific measures to better regulate labor relations in the construction industry, to effectively deal with the phenomena of undeclared and declared work and especially for the correction of the significant discrepancy between the wages already provided for by the legislation and the wages agreed in the collective agreement with the wages actually paid to the workers according to the data of the Social Insurance Fund”.

Also, he expressed optimism that within the next few days the two sides will discuss extensively in their Houses the framework of his mediation proposal, so that it can then be presented and put before them in more detail to make their final positions, with Mr. Panagiotou estimating that, if things progress smoothly “they will be able to be positive so that the agreement can lead to the renewal of the collective agreement in the construction industry”.

Source: KYPE

Source: reporter.com.cy

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