Minimum wages on the rise as the EU moves to curb social dumping

According to a recent article by Eurofound, the growth in the level of minimum wages accelerated in the period between January 2016 and January 2017, with the largest increases in newer EU Member States. This continues a trend of slow convergence between minimum wage levels in Europe. However, despite this general convergence the differences remain significant, with a minimum wage worker earning 1.999 € per month in Luxembourg, compared to 235 € in Bulgaria.
There has also been a return to a more collaborative approach in determining minimum wages in a number of Member States, with the input of social partners and expert committees.
Minimum wage workers in most countries have felt the difference in their pockets, as the real term change to wages has increased in relation to prices in the majority of countries compared to 2010, with the particular exception of Greece where workers are still significantly worse off.




CEEC meeting

Yesterday in Sofia, FIEC and the Bulgarian Chamber of Construction (BCC) coorganised a special meeting for the construction federations of Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC). In addition to the Bulgarians, representatives from Romania (ARACO), Slovakia (ZSPS), Slovenia (CCBMIS), as well as Germany (HDB) participated in this meeting.
It came out of the discussions that CEEC construction federations often face similar difficulties, in particular: a general decrease in public investment, the importance of public procurement in terms of the proportion of market share, coupled with a weak legal framework, unethical practices and unfair contract conditions. On top of this, it is difficult to attract young people in the sector and then to train them.
The immediate next step is to set up a working group specifically dedicated to CEEC construction federations, where they could share their problems and find common solutions.



Brexit bill does not reassure UK construction industry

The UK government’s “Brexit bill” passed through the House of Commons last week without any amendments, paving the way for Theresa May to start the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.  Although the bill passed with a convincing majority, the construction industry is far from reassured that its interests will be defended by the government, as May has already identified financial services and the automotive industry as those for which it will seek preferential deals. Nevertheless, the recent Brexit White Paper raises the issue of the shortage of workers for key industries and promises to take steps to ensure that the supply of workers does not simply dry up.  Even with this unspecific commitment, of particular concern to the construction industry is the absolute refusal of the government to unilaterally guarantee the acquired rights of EU nationals already living and working in the UK. Although an amendment was tabled to protect these citizens, it was defeated.  The bill now goes to the House of Lords, where it is hoped that the amendment might have more success.  The supply of workers is not the only issue over which there is considerable uncertainty for construction, now that it is clear that the UK is expected to leave the single market.  Amongst other things, standardisation and the CE marking of construction products are also up in the air.