Construction plays a crucial role in the growth of the EU economy, and contractors in Europe need a long-term view on investments and a level playing field, a Tripartite Social Summit in Brussels, Belgium, has been told.
Jean-Louis Marchand, president of FIEC (the European Construction Industry Federation), told the summit, “The construction industry represents 8.5% of EU GDP (gross domestic product), more than 14 million workers and 3 million companies, mainly SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises).
“It therefore plays a crucial role in the growth of the EU economy and employment. What our companies need to play such a role is a long-term view on investments and a level playing field.”
As the officially recognised sectoral social partner representing employers from the construction industry, FIEC intervened in the employers’ delegation in the Tripartite Social Summit. The summit was co-chaired by Donald Tusk, President of the European Council; Jean‑Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission; and Robert Fico, Prime Minister of Slovakia, which currently holds the presidency of the Council.
Marchand underlined the federation’s full support for the European Fund for Strategic Investments – known as the Juncker Plan – which FIEC said was helping to provide what companies needed, “namely a long-term view on investments, in particular in infrastructure and energy-efficiency projects, with particular attention given to SMEs’ needs”.
As far as employment was concerned Marchand said, “We are currently experiencing a paradoxical situation – despite high levels of unemployment, particularly among youngsters, construction companies in several countries are having difficulties in finding the right workers with the right skills.
“Investing in training, in particular in vocational education and training, and anticipating the skills required in the future, is therefore crucial.”
Marchand again stressed that the proposed revision of the Posting Directive was not addressing the right priorities. Posting is the moving of EU workers, on a temporary basis, from the Member State were they usually work to another Member State.
“Social fraud is affecting the sustainable development of our sector,” said Marchand. “Companies, in particular SMEs, are forced to close and thousands of jobs are lost because of such fraudulent and illegal practices.
“Letterbox companies, bogus self-employment, fake A1 forms, incorrect or non-payment of social security contributions, inefficient exchange of information between administrations, these are the major obstacles to a level playing field in posting situations,” he said.
He added that FIEC would continue to collaborate in a constructive manner with the European Institutions and all the concerned stakeholders, in order to address adequately the problem of illegal practices, and social fraud in general, including in the framework of posting.