Minister of Labour Georges Mischo and Minister of the Economy Lex Delles held talks with the OGBL and LCGB unions regarding the current crisis afflicting Luxembourg's construction sector.

Union and employer representatives met on Friday morning, followed by meetings between Delles and Mischo and the two unions on Friday afternoon to address the crisis gripping the construction sector in the Grand Duchy. The government representatives said they were open to a sectoral job retention plan, but on the condition that the OGBL and LCGB come to an agreement with employers.

The OGBL expressed scepticism towards the idea, fearing that companies could benefit from financial aid where it is not needed; however, the ministers clarified they would put protection mechanisms in place to prevent abuse.

The government also sought to emphasise that the new measures proposed would not concern the entire construction sector, just the 20,000 or so employees in high-rise construction. The unions and employers intend to meet as quickly as possible to come to an agreement.

Demonstrations on Thursday and Friday

Around 200 people participated in a demonstration organised by the OGBL, at the Syndicalist Casino in Bonnevoie, calling for improved general working conditions in construction, the sector's collective agreement and flexible working hours.

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OGBL president Nora Back commented on the negotiations for a new collective agreement, which have not progressed for over a year, saying she did not accept the current crisis as an excuse to avoid further improvements to the agreement. "We have repeatedly pointed out that this crisis does not affect all businesses in the sector in the same way. Some large companies have been fine, while other smaller businesses are worse off. We're aware of this and prepared to adapt our demands to these conditions. But it is not acceptable to be told nothing is happening for 18 months, that the collective agreement will not be maintained, and salary freezes will take place due to the crisis."

The LCGB also held a rally at a Dommeldange hotel, with around 150 attendees. President Patrick Dury said around 12 to 15 businesses visited the union for assistance every month as a result of the crisis, struggling to pay employees' salaries and fearing bankruptcy. The LCGB is banking on the employment retention plan to guarantee jobs. "It is what we need here to successfully get through this crisis, thanks to partial unemployment and other measures until the government succeeds in relaunching the sector."

The union says everything must be done in order to build more, but could not comment on whether the government's proposals would be sufficient. However, the measures take time to have an effect, which underlines the importance of a sector-wide job retention plan.