Diana Atanasova and Maria Zheleva, Bulgarian Construction Chamber
Social dialogue is crucial for the smooth transition to the forthcoming new forms of economy. These will be based on continuous technological improvement of construction processes and methods, including circular and digital economy. With these words, Yiannos Markides, Vice President of the Federation of the Building Contractors Associations of Cyprus (OSEOK), opened the last capacity building event under the SuSodCo Project. This forum, which brought together representatives of the employers and trade unions in Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary, was organised by the Cyprus colleagues from OSEOK. “Our involvement in the SuSodCo Project and the enhancement of the social dialogue at national and international level are the drivers that enable us addressing the challenges of today’s era, such as sustainable employment, digitalization of the construction industry, vocational education and training (VET), occupational safety strategies”, Markides underlined. He highlighted the importance of the adaptation to the new forms of employment – flexible working hours, appropriate grouping of employees and ensuring good communication through new technologies.
Stelios Tsiapoutis, Secretary General of the Federation of Builders, Miners and Related Professions in Cyprus (SEK) underlined the important role of social dialogue for maintaining the labour peace and keeping the jobs, especially in the context of the new Covid-19 challenge. “There are no doubts that social dialogue has made significant contribution during the last decade, when we – the social partners in Cyprus, had to deal with the economic crisis in 2013. I am sure that in today’s hard times, the power of social dialogue and the collaboration of all stakeholders in the sector will bring us upwards again”, Tsiapoutis firmly states. He presented a very successful social dialogue practice in Cyprus – ATA, or the automatic salary indexation. ATA is a long-term agreement among the social partners on the island, which ensures sustainable purchasing power of the salary under variable economic conditions. To Tsiapoutis’ opinion, the newly established common inspection office is another social dialogue success story in Cyprus. Such office supervises the labour market, observes for the implementation of the legislation, monitors and analyses the specific benefits of the collective agreements in the construction and hotel sector.
The last event under the SuSodCo Project was dedicated to soft skills that are necessary for the effective social dialogue and the topics for successful applications for funding under social dialogue initiatives. At the beginning of the workshop, Pagona Liggou – professional lecturer and business coach, carried out short training on: “How to Negotiate Successfully” and “How to Address Crisis Situations”. She was followed by Metka Penko – Deputy Director at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia (CCIS), who made the participants familiar with the outcomes of several social dialogue projects in Slovenia. Thanks to these initiatives, CCIS manages to develop a competent collective bargaining model, to design efficient trainings for bargaining teams in the field of collective bargaining, to issue practical instruction manuals and to create Center for Trainings, Consultancy and Mediation in Individual Labour Disputes. The special guest of the workshop – Jerome Dumont, European public funding consultant at the international organization Welcomeurope, presented the key EU programs supporting social dialogue initiatives. He gave the participants valuable guidance and advice how to avoid typical errors during the application process and what to emphasize on when preparing their project proposals.
One of the highlights during the first day was the presentation of the new web-based platform developed under the SuSodCo Project. Paraskevi Angelakopoulou – a representative of the Panhellenic Association of Engineers Contractors of Public Works (PEDMEDE) and a lead partner for this activity, demonstrated the features of the platform, which will collect more than 100 sectoral social dialogue joint initiatives at European level during the period 2010 – 2020. She believes that with the help of this platform, new ideas for individual projects and initiatives will be generated, taking into account the specificities of the respective country. The web-based platform is intended for the national social partners in the construction sector (including the public administration) and the European social partners. It will also present the joint social dialogue communication strategies in the construction sector of the six partner countries of SuSodCo Project (Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece and Cyprus).
During the second day, the participants were divided into three international breakout groups in order to put in practice everything they have learned during the four capacity building events under the SuSodCo Project. This time, they had the task to summarize an idea for a joint social dialogue initiative that would be developed in a real project proposal in future. Before getting down to work, the participants were inspired by Christine Le Forestier – a representative of the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC), who made them aware of the latest projects dedicated to the European social dialogue and topics like: employment, VET, occupational health and safety in the construction industry. Le Forestier highlighted a VET project in the area of energy efficient construction, which “for sure facilitated the improvement of skills in this area and contributed to make the topic more attractive among young people”, she said and expressed her belief that young peoples are the drivers for success and development of the construction industry. Le Forestier underlined the contribution of the Bulgarian partners to the preparation and dissemination of the manual “Fair Work, Fair Play! Say NO to Undeclared Work in Construction” within the initiative #EU4FairWork. Last but not least, the workshop participants get familiar with the DESOCO Project aimed at the decentralization of the social dialogue in the construction industry in the Central and Eastern European countries, and with the FIEC social dialogue project ideas submitted to the European Commission in 2021.
After the presentation of these interesting projects, the social partners were grouped in virtual rooms to discuss their future project initiatives while applying their just improved communication skills and negotiation abilities. With the help of the advanced online tools for collaboration, the three groups managed to develop three project ideas on the following topics: improvement of the construction sector image, parity funds for better working conditions in the construction industry, and encouraging socially responsible public procurements in construction.
SuSodCo in Bulgaria
The Bulgarian partners of the SuSodCo Project are the Bulgarian Construction Chamber and the construction trade union Federation “Construction, Industry and Water Supply” – Podkrepa, which once again proved to achieve exclusive results together and have excellent social dialogue. In pursuance of the SuSodCo project activities, in December 2020 the two organizations agreed to work hard during the next years to improve the social dialogue and to undertake specific active measures in the following priority areas: VET, European Green Deal, digitalization, improvement of the sector’s image, posting of workers and undeclared work. What did the Bulgarian partners achieve in the field of social dialogue in 2021? During the spring, the Bulgarian Construction Chamber organized an international workshop for exchange of best practices between Bulgaria and Portugal with the participation of all those involved in this complex process in the two countries, including the social partners. During the summer, the project partners held the third SuSodCo capacity building event dedicated on digitalization. Furthermore, at the initiative of Federation “Construction, Industry and Water Supply” – Podkrepa, the Bulgarian Construction Chamber hosted the “Green Models” Round Table, which presented interesting social standards and models that can improve the human resources and working environment development, including workers’ health and safety. The outcomes of these initiatives were reported in details by Stroitel Newspaper – the project media partner, with the support of SuSodCo Project.