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COVID-19 crisis: The European construction sector calls for urgent measures to protect worker's health, support economic activity and accelerate the recovery

Date

31 Mar 2020

Sections

InfoSociety

Facing   the  Covid-19    outbreak,   the  world    is   fighting   a   pandemic   of   unprecedented proportions in modern times, currently causing  a full-blown  health emergency.

We, the undersigned European associations,  represent  the construction sector,  an  industry worth 9% of the EU GDP and employing  more  than 16 million Europeans. In light of these difficult times, we wish to reiterate our  commitment to supporting public authorities as well as our dedication to our most fundamental asset, our workers’ wellbeing.

From  an  economic and  industrial point of  view,  the  situation is unprecedented and  could have   extremely   damaging    and   long-term   effects.   It  has   the  potential   of   exhausting companies’  cash  flow  and  cripple  the construction value-chain for  years  to come,  crushing the millions of SMEs, the large  businesses and industrial entities alike.

Member States are  putting in place  different measures to slow down  and  end  the spread of Covid-19.    In   some   countries,   such   measures  allow   the   continuation  of   construction activities and  ensure the health and  safety of workers, whilst others are  limiting economic activities to those considered as “essential”.

Some   of   these   essential  services  are   provided  by   the   construction   sector,   such   as maintenance  of  critical  infrastructure,  proper  functioning  of  water,  electricity  and   gas supply  systems for  buildings  and  hospitals.  Indeed,   problems like  water leak  can  worsen home  confinement and need  to be repaired promptly.

A performing construction supply chain is crucial  for  maintaining the activity, with proper health  and   safety  conditions.  It is therefore  essential  to  guarantee  the  circulation  of construction   products;   equipment     and   provision    of   services   in   full   respect  of   the instructions delivered by public health authorities.

In  this context,  we   call  upon   public   authorities  to  take  into  account  the  scale   of  the disruptions to our  sector and  to prevent the foreseen economic downturn from  becoming  a meltdown of historic proportions with far-reaching social consequences.

Indeed,  before thinking  about medium-  and  long-term measures,  short-term  provisions are urgently required to protect Europe’s most labour-intensive value-chains, thereby allowing for a rebound to happen as soon  as the health crisis will be over.

We therefore urge  the European institutions and the European Member States to act in full coordination to:

  • Put  in   place   required   and   tailor-made  health   and   safety  measures,   protocols  and guidelines with the  active involvement  of  relevant  stakeholders,  allowing  employers to guarantee the required level of workers’ protection
  • Support the construction supply chain  by putting in place  measures allowing  the efficient functioning of the EU internal market. In this respect, we welcome the Communication of the   European  Commission on   the   implementation  of   the  Green    Lanes   under  the Guidelines for border management measures;
  • Carry out massive  support and  stimulus  programmes.  These actions must not be  limited to a few iconic sectors of strategic or political importance that may need  full bailouts, but crucially   to  those job  providers  such   as  construction  that  must  also  receive  the  full attention of the authorities;
  • Ease the administrative burden and the conditions for employers to implement temporary unemployment measures.

Finally, we ask the  European Commission  to open  a dialogue  as soon  as the  circumstances allow  it,  in  order  to  jointly  identify   and  implement   appropriate  measures   to  limit the downturn  and facilitate  a rapid recovery  of all construction activities.

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