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EFBWW warns that the conclusions of the Letta report can lead to less protection for construction workers


The Letta Report is cause for both optimism and concern for the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers. The Federation welcomes the report’s detailed analysis of the challenges faced by workers in the construction sector, especially around the issues of subcontracting and the posting of workers. However, the EFBWW expresses significant concerns regarding the broad conclusions of the report. Any potential moves to further liberalise the internal market would directly contradict what is needed and expected by construction workers.

The report, commissioned by the European Council, was put together by former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who engaged various stakeholders including EFBWW to gather insights. In February, the EFBWW and its Italian affiliates, met with Mr. Letta in Rome to discuss our specific concerns about the construction sector, emphasising the need for reforms to address abusive subcontracting practices, the safety of posted workers, and fair wages.

The report suggests, "Public procurement regulations must ensure that contracts foster the creation of high-quality jobs, characterised by fair wages and conditions underpinned by collective agreements" and recognises the need to "regulate subcontracting practices to prevent exploitation and abuse." EFBWW supports the report's acknowledgement of the need for enhancing safety standards in the construction sector and its push for digitalisation related to the posting of workers, aligning with EFBWW’s advocacy for stronger protective measures for workers and improved labour mobility frameworks. While these observations are welcome, they fall short of the urgently needed legislative changes we have been advocating for years.

EFBWW is particularly concerned with the report’s conclusion, which reads as a proposal for broad economic liberalisation. This would clash with the specific needs for new and stricter regulation and enforcement in the construction sector as detailed in the body of the report. Liberalisation, without sufficient emphasis on the enforcement of labour standards and the strengthening of workers' rights, could undermine the supposed benefits of the proposed reforms.

EFBWW general secretary, Tom Deleu: “While we recognise the Letta Report’s potential to influence positive changes within the Single Market, we urge EU policymakers to adopt a more ambitious approach that takes more into account specific industries. The construction sector is a fraud sensitive industry, and further loosening regulations would only worsen these issues. The new European Commission must come forward with a legislative proposal to limit subcontracting and stop social dumping, labour crime and exploitation of workers. Social protection and workers’ rights cannot be treated as a so-called barrier”.

Therefore, EFBWW calls on the European Union and its policymakers to prioritise the implementation of strict, enforceable regulations specifically tailored to the construction sector. These should not only address but end the abusive subcontracting practices that have plagued our industry for too long. EFBWW calls on the European Union to avoid any move towards a more liberal Single Market at the expense of workers’ rights and safety. The federation commits to remaining actively involved in discussions with EU institutions to advocate for a Single Market that promotes social progress.

The EFBWW is currently running a campaign to expose exploitation in subcontracting chains. More info here