Construction Sector

“We are here to defend our collective agreement”

The OGBL Construction Syndicate called on workers in the sector to demonstrate on December 7 at the Casino syndical de Bonnevoie. For better working conditions! For secure, quality jobs. And against flexible working hours.

From the outset, José Nicolau Nunes Pinto, president of the OGBL Building Syndicate, set the tone: “We are here to defend our collective agreement. It is this union that will allow us to fight against employers who are becoming more and more petty, arrogant and selfish. Let’s not forget that the bosses have lined their pockets thanks to us. It’s time for them to share their wealth with us.

It’s been two years since the collective agreement in the construction sector expired, and the OGBL has been fighting with the sector’s employers’ federations to negotiate a new collective agreement. “They’re refusing to negotiate seriously, and it’s scandalous,” says Jean-Luc De Matteis, central secretary of the OGBL Building Syndicate.

And yet, for decades, employers have largely benefited from the dynamism of the construction sector. construction sector. As Jean-Luc De Matteis points out, construction companies themselves are often investors and developers who have benefited greatly from the rise in property prices. “The increases in housing and land prices and land prices have largely gone into the same pockets.

It should be pointed out in this context that developers’ profit margins are 20-40% of the price of a house, which represents tens of millions of tens of millions of euros earned on the backs of employees. employees.

“No company in the construction industry can say that its margins have not been high enough in recent years, that its profits have not been high enough, and that its order books have not been full enough. But this is what the employers have been saying from the very beginning of the negotiations,” denounces the OGBL’s central secretary.

Over the past two years, the employers have used every possible argument to slow down the negotiations. “First there was the war in Ukraine, then inflation due to rising energy prices. Despite all this, we proved to them, with figures to back it up, that the sector was doing well. After a three-week standstill at the start of the Covid pandemic, the construction sector was also one of the first to take off again, posting a stunning recovery. “And this recovery, it was you who made it happen, with overtime. The sector has come out stronger.”

According to the employers’ federations, wages and working conditions are currently satisfactory, so there is no reason to consider increases. However, as Jean-Luc De Matteis points out, if wages and working conditions were really so good, then how can we explain the labor shortage that the sector is currently suffering from!

The OGBL acknowledges that the negotiations to renew the collective agreement are taking place in a slightly different context than in the past and that “the construction sector has been in a slowdown phase for several months. But, as Jean-Luc De Matteis points out, not all companies are in the same boat. Not all companies are affected by this slowdown. The sector is not homogeneous and many companies are still making profits.

And this is another of the OGBL’s complaints against employers. Since 2022, “employers have been crying wolf in order to obtain massive state aid by any means”. Employers’ federations are now calling for a sectoral job protection plan, which the OGBL opposes. “Not all companies are equally affected by the temporary shutdown. It is inconceivable that those who are not in need push for this aid. The state should not be lining the pockets of those who have been making hundreds of thousands of euros on the backs of workers for at least a decade,” said the central secretary of the OGBL Construction Syndicate.

On the other hand, the OGBL is willing to negotiate individual job protection plans with companies that are really in trouble because of the current economic situation. However, the employers’ federations are doing everything they can to block this option and are currently putting pressure on company directors. “We are aware of letters being sent out urging companies not to enter into individual plans, especially with the OGBL. This is simply disgusting,” says Jean-Luc De Matteis, pointing out that thousands of jobs are at stake.

The OGBL also regrets that it is somewhat alone in this matter. The other union supported the employer’s position.

The final point raised at the demonstration was the new government’s announcement that it wants to make working hours more flexible – a huge gift to employers in the construction sector. “Their dream is to let workers work when they want and how they want: more in the summer and less in the winter,” explains Jean-Luc De Matteis.

In fact, the government’s announcement is a perfect response to a long-standing demand by employers’ federations in the construction sector. A measure that the OGBL considers not only dangerous, as it increases the risk of accidents, but also detrimental to workers, as it means lost wages and a loss of quality of life.

The OGBL will oppose this measure, as it has done in the past. And it won’t be able to count on the other union either…

The article was published in the December edition of Aktuell.

Renouvellement de la convention collective - les revendications de l’OGBL:

  • Augmentation de 1% de la prime de fin d’année versée à chaque salarié, indépendamment du nombre de jours de maladie
  • Revalorisation de la grille salariale
  • Amélioration du système de formation afin que chaque salarié puisse y prendre part, sachant que la promotion est liée à la formation
  • Augmentation du nombre de jours de congé pour atteindre 6 semaines par an