„Mobility is crucial for the construction industry“

Prof. Catherine Barnard (Photo: Detlef Gottwald)

Dietmar Schäfers (Photo: Detlef Gottwald)

Europe Day of the German Construction Industry on 8 November 2017 in Brussels: “Mobility of workers in Europe”

(15-11-2017) „Mobility is crucial for the construction industry“ was a key message in Mr Asshoff´s (board member of SOKA-BAU) welcome speech during this year’s Europe Day of the German Construction Industry.

About 80 guests from European institutions, European and German organisations, diplomats as well as academics followed the invitation of the social partners of the construction industry, notably their leading representatives Robert Feiger (IG BAU), Dr.-Ing. Hans-Hartwig Loewenstein (ZDB) and Peter Hübner (HDB) to the "Autoworld" museum in Brussels.

The event venue of the programme itself was of significance: There is hardly any other product which represents the pursuit of mobility as much as the car. At the same time, there is barely any other industry in which workers’ mobility is as widespread as it is in the construction industry, an industry accounting for 10 million workers throughout the EU. According to figures provided by SOKA-BAU, more than 100,000 workers were posted to Germany in this industry in 2016.

It is obvious that mobility does not come about without tensions and difficulties, considering the different work and wage conditions within the EU. “There is a risk of social dumping” emphasized Catherine Barnard, professor at the University of Cambridge, in her keynote speech. She is a lawyer with profound knowledge of European labour law and works as a consultant for the EU institutions.

As undeclared work and illegal employment are the most important issues of common concern in the construction industry, Catherine Barnard focused on the legal framework of posting of workers and analysed the current initiative on the revision of the Posted Workers Directive. She considers this area as a key challenge to the European integration, especially in times of Brexit. “How is the EU to develop a social policy which is inclusive and meaningful both to workers in the wealthier older Member States and to the workers from the newer states?”

Dietmar Schäfers, vice-chairman of the IG BAU and president of the European Federation
of Building and Woodworkers, spoke on behalf of the social partners of the German Construction Industry and stressed the following: “We need a Europe that actually improves the situation of its workers and companies and, in an equal measure, establishes a level playing field”. In this context, he also took a critical look at a set of current legislative measures. The European Commission’s proposal for an European services e-card would run counter to the intention of promoting fair competition. Planned bureaucratic requirements for the introduction or revision of vocational training regulations would be "detrimental to innovation and disproportionate”. Further, he criticised shortcomings regarding the (European) rules on social security coordination and cross-border exchange of data. Government measures alone are, in any case, not enough: “Therefore we need a Europe of collective agreements, of trade unions and employer’s organisations!”

SOKA-BAU is the common name of Urlaubs- und Lohnausgleichskasse der Bauwirtschaft and Zusatzversorgungskasse des Baugewerbes AG based in Wiesbaden. Both are paritarian institutions established by the social partners of the German Construction Industry:
Zentralverband des Deutschen Baugewerbes e. V. (ZDB),
Hauptverband der Deutschen Bauindustrie e. V. (HDB) and
Industriegewerkschaft Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt (IG BAU).