EFBWW-BWI Joint activity report 2022
2022 highlighted almost all the existential threats to humanity and our planet. While the world just started to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, humanity faced new crises caused by wars and military conflicts, the uprising of authoritarian regimes and far-right policies and climate change resulting in extremely hot weather conditions in some countries, while others suffered from epic flooding. In this year full of challenges, EFBWW and BWI joined forces and cooperated more than ever to defend workers’ rights on numerous levels.
“We are very proud that in 2022 BWI and EFBWW significantly moved forward in building stronger relationships through joint initiatives and direct actions on the ground. Both federations stood together with the people and workers of Ukraine, campaigned for occupational health and safety to be recognized as a fundamental workers’ right, promoted gender equality, built networks within multinational corporations, protected migrant workers’ rights.” – said Ambet Yuson, BWI General Secretary and Tom Deleu, EFBWW General Secretary.
Solidarity Support for Workers in Ukraine
In February 2022, EFBWW and BWI jointly condemned the violence and military actions against Ukraine and called upon Russia to end its military aggression immediately and withdraw its troops from all of Ukraine. BWI and EFBWW urged the relevant policy makers in the EU and the international organisations to ensure humanitarian support for the Ukrainian people in distress, and to prepare necessary actions to protect and extract those at risk. The trade union movement expressed full solidarity with their affiliate PROFBUD, the Ukrainian building workers union.
BWI and EFBWW organised a joint Ukraine solidarity meeting on 8 March 2022, gathering almost 70 participants who expressed their support for the Ukrainian people, condemned the war and called for peace through diplomacy. On this occasion, EFBWW and BWI appealed to all affiliates to donate to the “Peace in Ukraine Fund”. BWI and EFBWW will continue to work with trade unions in border countries to ensure that the necessary goods and money are properly delivered to those in need (read more here).
BWI and EFBWW are preparing the next phase to ensure that the reconstruction of the country will be a driver for social progress based on social dialogue and quality jobs. EFBWW is focusing on lobby work towards the European institutions and is preparing for discussions that should lead to a Memorandum of Understanding with FIEC, the European employer organisation for the construction industry.
Joint Actions on Multinational Corporations (MNCs)
On 4 May 2022, on the occasion of Holcim’s Annual General Meeting, trade unions organised a protest action in front of the multinational cement giant’s Headquarters in Zug, Switzerland. The protest action, led by BWI, IndustriALL Global Union and the EFBWW called on Holcim to respect worker’s rights, and follow international health and safety standards in all of its operations. They asserted that Holcim’s growing use of sub-contractors undermines the company’s ambition of a zero-harm target. In a joint statement, the global unions urged Holcim to engage in genuine social dialogue at all levels (read more here).
In Spring 2022, Bouygues announced its intention to take over Equans from ENGIE for a value of 7.1 billion euros. The takeover will have an impact on 125,000 workers in Bouygues and 60,000 workers in Equans. EFBWW and BWI have denounced the lack of dialogue and engagement by the management with its affiliates, demanding urgent meetings, seeking a genuine commitment to social dialogue, and with concrete guarantees for workers.
On 7 July and 1 December 2022, the EFBWW general secretary, Tom Deleu, together with Christian Roy, the Bouygues EWC coordinator, met in Paris with the senior HR management of Bouygues. Following those meetings, Bouygues has agreed to discuss social guarantees for workers in both companies and to discuss the modalities for improving social dialogue in the company. The negotiation process will start soon. EFBWW and BWI will coordinate their approach to the company to ensure that workers are not forgotten.
Joint efforts were further pursued to improve the situation in CRH, which now has a global presence in the building materials sector. However, the company has a negative attitude to social dialogue and does not meet the standards expected for a MNC of its size in comparison to its main competitors.
To date, the stage to move on to negotiating an IFA has not been reached yet. EFBWW-BWI joint strategy will be discussed in 2023.
On 5-7 December 2022 BWI and EFBWW held a joint conference on multinational companies (MNCs) which brought together 49 trade union leaders, officials, union representatives and shop stewards from 18 countries. The two federations underlined the importance of joining forces to share information, develop joint strategies, and agree on tools to effectively engage MNCs to defend the interests and jobs of workers all over Europe, and promote social democracy at workplaces. This cooperation covers MNCs operating in the building, woodworking, forestry and allied industries and trades in general, Chinese MNCs, and the cement sector, in particular the European global players. (read more here)
The EFBWW ad hoc Cement Network met on 14 December to update affiliates on the agreement that was reached on the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) between the EU institutions and its impact on the cement industry. BWI colleagues participated in the meeting and reported on global discussions in this area.
A day before BWI 5th World Congress, a jampacked room of more than 200 women trade unionists gathered on 4 October at the Marriot Hotel and Conference Centre in Madrid, Spain and discussed how trade jobs, traditionally the domain of male workers, are viable career options for women too. Carrying the theme “She can do the job,” the morning conference of BWI’s Women in Trade (WiT) conference was opened by BWI Africa Regional Representative Crecentia Mofokeng and Nina Kreutzman, Chair of the EFBWW-Women Network. (read more here)
Migrant Workers’ Rights
The final conference of the ECMIN project took place on 29-30 June 2022 in Lublin, Poland. The goal of the project was to inform migrant and posted workers about salaries, working conditions and workers’ rights in the construction industry. The ECMIN website is an important tool in this work and should assist trade unions and other organisations that reach out to workers in their fight to combat labour exploitation. With the rapid increase of non-EU workers in the construction labour market, good cooperation between EFBWW and BWI is very important. EFBWW invited BWI to join and contribute to the project. During the final conference, the conclusions of the project were presented. In 2023 the www.constructionworkers.eu website will also become available in Ukrainian, Arabic, Vietnamese, Hindi and Russian.
The problem of exploited foreign workers on European building sites is not new. However, the situation has been escalating and this is just the tip of the iceberg. The case of human trafficking on a construction site in Antwerp is a dossier of serious proportions, which is relatively unseen in Belgium. Third country nationals (Bengalis, Filipinos, Turks, and Ukrainians) were being exploited and victims of human trafficking. This is a serious case of modern slavery in Belgium.
During the 5th BWI World Congress delegates adopted an emergency resolution calling upon its members to make the fight against social dumping imperative; to limit the number of layers in the subcontracting chains; to introduce a joint wage liability of the main contractor on the whole subcontracting chain; to increase the number of labour inspectors at least to the threshold of ILO Convention 81. Also on the phenomenon of social dumping BWI and EFBWW work closely together.
OSH as a Fundamental Workers’ Right
On 28 April 2022, the BWI and EFBWW commemorated the workers who lost their lives to workplace accidents and diseases and highlighted the ongoing fight for healthy, safe and decent working conditions. (read more here)
On 10 June 2022, the International Labour Conference (ILC) adopted a resolution to add the principle of a safe and healthy working environment to the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. With this groundbreaking development, Occupational Health and Safety was secured as ILO’s fifth Fundamental Principle and Right at Work. This historic victory for the global trade union movement was supported by the joint BWI and EFBWW health and safety campaign that gathered 445 joint declarations by trade unions and employers, calling for the recognition of OHS as a fundamental right, and covering 480,000 workplaces and 18 million workers worldwide. (read more here)
The EFBWW is lobbying for an ambitious revision of the Asbestos Directive. The legislative work is expected to be finalised end of 2023. The current discussions in the EU are a good occasion to repeat the joint EFBWW-BWI call for a global ban on asbestos. The approval of a ban on asbestos in Ukraine is a notable step forward.
New and stronger initiatives to protect workers against asbestos are needed, especially because the “Renovation Wave” will potentially lead to more exposure to asbestos-contaminated materials. BWI and EFBWW will step up their collaboration on this issue to make sure it is properly tackled at the EU and international levels.