Construction Sector

Keeping people in work must be the top priority

On October 5, representatives of employers in the construction sector, the OGBL, the union with a large majority in the sector, and the LCGB met to discuss the situation in the construction and temporary employment sectors and the steps to be taken to respond to the current slowdown in new housing construction.

The current slowdown has several causes. The main factor, which has had a major impact, is the dramatic rise in interest rates over the past 18 months, accompanied by the decades-old scourge of exorbitant house prices, which have made it virtually impossible for thousands of households to buy a home.

Clearly, soaring property prices are primarily the result of the pursuit of excessive profit margins by developers, investors and other players in the real estate sector.

These factors have led to a rapid slowdown in the sale of new homes – and therefore in their construction – as well as in the sale of existing properties, dramatically exacerbating the housing crisis and having the perverse effect of driving up rental prices.

This slowdown is affecting the activity of a number of construction companies and therefore poses a risk to employment, given that the construction of new homes accounts for around 25% of the total activity of the sector, which is very heterogeneous from company to company.

For the OGBL, it is clear that maintaining employment must be an absolute priority. It’s a priority that the OGBL has been stressing to employers and politicians in recent months.

At the meeting on October 5, the introduction of a job protection plan (plan de maintien dans l’emploi – PME) was discussed.

The employers’ federation is calling for a sectoral plan to maintain jobs that would cover the entire sector, regardless of the economic situation of individual companies.

For the OGBL, this discussion of a “one size fits all” solution is completely misguided.

In view of the very different situations of the companies in the sector, it is important to consider possible measures individually, company by company, in order to maintain the employment of workers in the sector. Given that a large part of the aid, such as job protection plans, training, loans for temporary workers and short-time work, is paid for out of public funds, i.e. by the taxpayer, it is important that this aid be returned to the companies that really need it, and not to those that are operating normally and continuing to make a profit.

The OGBL didn’t wait to act

As the union representing workers in the sector and a key player in the social dialogue, the OGBL did not wait for this meeting to take action.

At the request of the OGBL, the situation had already been analyzed at a recent meeting with the Minister of Labor, Georges Engel, and the Minister of the Economy, Franz Fayot. Among other things, the OGBL demanded that all possible measures be taken to preserve the jobs of the thousands of workers in the sector. Government representatives supported this position. It was also agreed to examine on a case-by-case basis all the situations of the various companies in difficulty and to take all the necessary measures to safeguard the jobs that may be threatened.

On October 5, the OGBL presented its proposals for reviving activity in the new housing sector and for finding lasting solutions to the housing crisis.

The OGBL warns against distorting such an important instrument as the National Tripartite for reasons of political sensationalism and purely electoral purposes.

Quick solutions needed

The OGBL is ready to support all initiatives aimed at finding lasting solutions to the housing crisis affecting thousands of households who can no longer afford to purchase a home for their own needs, revitalizing the new housing construction sector and securing employment for thousands of construction workers.

However, the OGBL strongly opposes the creation of investor incentives such as a further increase in accelerated depreciation or a 3% VAT for investors.

These proposals are not designed to help households looking for a home, but only to increase the profit margins of investors and developers with taxpayers’ money.

The OGBL, on the other hand, is committed to solutions that can be implemented quickly to help households acquire or build a home, and thus to help companies currently affected by the slowdown in activity and to guarantee the jobs of the workers affected.

Press release of the OGBL, October 5, 2023