Intervention by Michalis Papanikolaou, UITBB General Secretary, at 112th ILC – Geneva, Switzerland,

Intervention by Michalis Papanikolaou, UITBB General Secretary, at 112th ILC – Geneva, Switzerland

Esteemed delegates,

We can all agree that the fundamental principles and rights at work are extremely important elements of any society that wants to call itself humane. When we talk about fundamental principles and rights at work, we should focus on some of them, which are as follows:

  1. Humane working hours.
  2. Decent working environment.
  3. Adequate wages and benefits, ensuring a decent standard of living.
  4. A compulsory social security system for sufficient coverage.
  1. In the last decades, technology and the organisation of labour have advanced very much and, as a result, productivity has increased and with it, the produced wealth.

Unfortunately, this produced wealth is not distributed fairly, with the few taking the lion’s share and the many, who are the workers, to get very little.

So, even if one would expect the working hours to decrease and the wages to increase, the tendency is for workers to work even more hours for lower wages, which is unacceptable.

In the construction industry, where the Trades Union International of Workers of the Building, Wood, and Building Materials Industries – UITBB, is active, what really happens is that many people work many more hours than 8, which is something that was won through hard struggles by the workers.

This is because of the pressure by the employers to finish projects faster for more profits, and because the workers need more income, to ensure a decent standard of living, due to high prices which has led to a decrease in their buying power.

We fully understand how difficult it is to work for many hours in the construction industry, and the dangers that this has.

As UITBB, we fight for increase in wages and relevant benefits, along with a strict enforcement of the working hours through legislation.

  1. A decent working environment in the construction industry is very important. This is because it can limit work-related accidents and improve the health and safety of the workers.

At the same time, it can help the inclusion of more women workers in the industry, which we need.

It is UITBB’s position, that a special entrance card must be issued to all workers, to be able to work in the construction industry.

This card should cover training on issues of health and safety, on specific issues on their specialty and to be used to reduce undeclared work.

What is more, there should be special arrangements at worksites to facilitate women workers, such as special rooms, hygienic facilities, and flexibility for care work, while the gender pay gap must be eliminated.

  1. Decent wages and benefits will lead to an increased standard of living for the workers.

Unfortunately, many employers exploit workers, especially the vulnerable, and pay them very little, without any benefits.

It is UITBB’s suggestion that, basic terms of collective agreements such as decent wages and benefits, must be inserted in legislation.

Additionally, we suggest that in cases of workers without collective agreement coverage, a model collective agreement should be in place, to cover them.

  1. The issue of sufficient coverage of the workers by a high-standard, social security system, is extremely important for us.

For UITBB, to succeed to the goal above, we need two major things. Firstly, we need to combat undeclared work. As we suggested above, the special entrance card will help a lot.

Moreover, we must have reliable social security systems, which presupposes the participation of the government.

Esteemed delegates,

UITBB believes that the intensification of work, the reduction of wages, the attacks against collective agreements and workers rights, the increase in retirement limits and the absence of a high-level social security system, are some of the factors that do not help workers enjoy fundamental principles and rights at work.

If we focus on the above problems from a class-based perspective, it is our belief that it is not only the workers who will benefit, but society as a whole.

Thank you.