Social dialogue in multinational companies in the building materials and in the construction industry

A conference entitled „Social dialogue in multinational companies in the building materials and in the construction industry” was organized by BIE Int. (Bouw-Industrie & Energie International), in co-operation with the Trade Union of Construction and Building Materials Industry Workers of Serbia and Autonomous Trade Union of Road Maintenance Workers of Serbia on June 19 - 20, 2019 in Belgrade with the financial support of EZA and the European Union.

The conference was organized within the framework of the EZA special project for workers’ organizations of the Western Balkans.

Participants of the conference were the representatives of sectoral trade unions and shop stewards from Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia. In the set-up of the program active participation was foreseen through group work and plenary discussions.

The following conclusions were adopted:

Representatives of the companies which participated in the seminar discussed about the state of social dialogue in their companies, i.e. the countries from which they come. The participants of the seminar pointed out that the quality of social dialogue is very different from one country to another. This has much to do with the legislative framework in the different countries and / or the representativity of social partners. Both are very much linked to one another.

Participants pointed out that there is a functioning social dialogue and that collective bargaining takes places on a regular basis within the companies present. Collective agreements are respected and the obligations are being met (CTH, Titan, Carmeuse). However, in the case of STRABAG in Serbia, the situation is different. There is no collective agreement, and the employer treats the employees in a bad way. The representatives of the employer STRABAG in Serbia reject the negotiations for the conclusion of the collective agreement, and the president of the company trade union was dismissed due to trade union activities. Further activities on this issue will be conducted by the Autonomous Union of Road Maintenance Workers of Serbia in cooperation with Christian Fölzer, Specialist for international affairs of the Austrian Trade Union GBH.

All participants agree that subcontracting and outsourcing pose a lot of challenges for trade unions. In some cases the situation of workers in subcontracting companies can be very bad. Cases were recorded where the same job is being subcontracted to six companies subsequently. In such cases it is difficult to monitor working conditions and enforce equal treatment for all workers on site.

Migration and mobility of workers and companies has an important impact on the labour market in all of the countries represented at the seminar. Both in so-called sending and receiving countries. In many cases sending countries are also receiving countries. Young and skilled workers are leaving “en masse” the region to look for better jobs and earn higher wages in other EU countries. This leaves the region with a shortage of (skilled) workers. The further opening up of the construction market for free competition has led also to an increasing presence of foreign companies and migrant labour (EU and 3rd country origin). Sometimes these companies do not respect applicable legislation and / or existing cultures of collective bargaining.

The good experiences of the Construction Trade Union of Croatia that has managed to sign a collective agreement with Chinese company CRBC (the project of building the Peljesac Bridge) was discussed.

Further discussions focused on the practical experience of Works Councils and European Works Councils in the regions. In some cases they have not been established although they are stipulated by the labour laws. In all cases there is a need for training of Work Council members.

It was agreed that if there is a possibility, next seminar will be attended by the trade union representatives of Titan from Greece.

General conclusion is that the next seminar should have the character of training with specific focus on employees' rights in the countries of the European Union: Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia.