BCC and FCIW – Podkrepa Celebrated the End of the SUSODCO Project

The social partners in construction – Bulgarian Construction Chamber (BCC) and Federation Construction, Industry and Water Supply – Podkrepa (FCIW – Podkrepa) celebrated the end of SuSodCo project with a final national conference that was held on the 17th of May 2022 at BCC headquarters. The objective of this event was to present the project outcomes at national level to the district branches of BCC and FCIW – Podkrepa and to the social partners in the sector. More than 100 delegates attended the conference physically and online.

Yordan Yordanov – Vice President of FCIW – Podkrepa, presented the SuSodCo project, which teams up the national social partners in the construction sector in Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Slovenia, Hungary and Croatia. The main objective of the project is to improve the social dialogue skills drawing on the experience of the European social partners. “Social dialogue is a tool used by the representatives of employers and workers to build bridges between them – bridges that brings them closer, instead of walls that put them apart”, Mr. Yordanov said. He added that the idea of the project is to develop and give further impetus for the development of social dialogue in Bulgaria. At the beginning of the initiative, the Bulgarian Institute of Researches and Trainings – ITPIO, made a complex research on the social dialogue status in all partner countries and an analysis of the existing social dialogue skills of social partners in several categories – digital skills, communication skills, establishment of efficient contact network, management skills and crisis management. Based on these researches, the concept of the four international interrelated capacity-building events was drafted. These events were aimed at improving the skills of social partners in the construction sector through exchange of good practices, raising the awareness on key social dialogue themes and customized trainings (Fig. 1). The other key project outcome is the SuSodCo platform, which presents successful EU social dialogue initiatives and good practices.

In Bulgaria, the outcomes were presented by Nina Georgieva, expert in BCC. During the first virtual capacity-building event in December 2020, the Bulgarian project partners – BCC and FCIW – Podkrepa, defined five priority social dialogue themes in Bulgaria based on the Multiannual Action Program for the Sectoral European Social Dialogue of the Construction Industry (2020-2023) of FIEC and EFBWW. The two organisations agreed to work hard during the next two years to improve the social dialogue and to undertake specific active measures in the following priority areas: VET, European Green Deal, digitalisation, improvement of the sector’s image, secondment of workers and undeclared work, which are crucial for the development of the sector in Bulgaria. Several events on these themes were held and a number of articles were published within the project and with the support of Stroitel Newspaper – the project media partner, which raised the awareness and drew the public attention to the challenges in the construction sector in Bulgaria. A number of meetings with the construction branch and the Bulgarian institutions were organised, which gave the Bulgarian social partners the opportunity to put firm foundations of successful cooperation on the chosen social dialogue themes.

What kind of initiatives did we carry out in Bulgaria during the last year? In April 2021, BCC hosted an international workshop for exchange of good practices between Bulgaria and Portugal in the field of seconded workers, which was attended by all stakeholders from the two countries involved in this complex process, including the social partners. Valentin Nikolov – Executive Director of BCC, said that the issue of seconded workers is quite complex and that some omissions exist both in the Bulgarian and in the European legislation. “By presenting the Portuguese model of monitoring and control of long-term secondment, we demonstrated a good practice, which may be applied in Bulgaria too, and as a result of our joint efforts, the administration is now better prepared”, Nikolov underlined.  

In June 2021, the Bulgarian social partners held the third SuSodCo capacity-building event dedicated on digitalization issues. It focused on digitalization from the European social dialogue perspective and its impact on the following aspects – employment, remunerations, vocational education and training, working conditions and conflicts. MSc Eng. Ioannis Parteniotis – President of FCIW – Podkrepa, underlined that the impact of the fourth industrial revolution is different in all sectors, however, having its strongest impact on the labour market, where new career pathways emerge, traditional professions disappear, communication process changes and new requirements occur. “Automation, robotics and drones replacing the cranes highlight the trends in the sector and this has crucial impact on the construction process. Digitalization has the potential to improve the efficiency of labour, to build-up the skills and to contribute to more efficient use of resources”, MSc Eng. Parteniotis firmly says. To his opinion, digitalization will help to reduce total costs and to improve the quality of the end product. Digital transformation will have positive impact on the following aspects – retention of workers, staff qualification and requalification, attracting new employees and increasing the labour price. “In Bulgaria, however, we have not gone so far yet. Organisations that are more initiative and more flexible in the definition of the sector’s needs and the introduction of innovative measures will be more successful. This is why, our task is to identify what are the emerging professions, what knowledge and skills are necessary in short-, mid- and long-term aspect, in order to adapt the educational standards and curriculums in timely manner and to prepare both the sector and the vocational education”, MSc Eng. Parteniotis commented.

In July 2021, at the initiative of FCIW – Podkrepa, BCC hosted the Green Models Round Table, which presented three initiatives improving the human resources and working environment development, including workers’ occupational health and safety. The first one referred to the paramedical care at work. Guidelines on provision of first aid in case of accidents were drafted with the support of the Bulgarian Red Cross. Field training is planned in cooperation with the district branches of BCC. “Construction is among the sectors with high degree of accidents and injuries. Sometimes, a few minutes are fatal. This is quite practical idea presented in small booklets, which show builders what to do while waiting for the ambulance – small efforts with big potential to save the life and health of people”, Nikolov commented. The second initiative was the establishment of Reconciliation Commission and voluntary arbitration for mediation and agency in case of labour disputes between employer and workers. The third “green” model was the presentation of conceptual framework and human resources management plan applicable to every company. “This initiative will improve the social policy and will have its impact both on the staff career development and on the human resources management as well”, MSc Eng. Parteniotis underlined.

Last but not least, BCC and FCIW – Podkrepa joined their efforts and applied for funding of a new social dialogue initiative entirely focusing on the challenges in the Bulgarian construction sector defined within the frames of SuSodCo. The joint project idea TANCIRC 2.0 was approved in April this year and will be implemented under the auspices of the European social partners – FIEC and EFBWW. Within the frames of the project, the Bulgarian social partners will make a study of emerging and disappearing professions in construction and of sectors featured by deficit of skills. Based on this study, meetings with the Ministry of Education and Science and the National Agency of Vocational Education and Training will be organised in order to support the adaptation of curriculums. At regional level, the vocational training centers will be involved to improve the qualification of construction staff. Social partners will visit a number of high schools across the country to present the new trends in construction, which considerably improve working conditions, and to address the damages caused by undeclared work. “We have always had intensive, fruitful, balanced and adequate social dialogue and we have always managed to find the common ground of employers’ and workers’ interests. I believe that this will continue in future as well and through the implementation of our new project, we, the Bulgarian social partners, will be able to be a role model for other countries that face similar challenges”, MSc Eng. Parteniotis concluded.