HesaMag 13 - Construction workers at the mercy of social dumping

Besides the challenge of combatting social dumping, the special report addresses other major concerns for building workers and their unions: the continuing exposure to asbestos, women's access to this industry and improving the safety of construction machinery.

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Editorial: Occupational cancers: from outrage to action

Imagine if an airplane crashed onto the runway of a European airport every day. After a few weeks, the situation would become politically untenable. With 300 deaths a day, and over 100 000 in a year, it would become an inescapable priority. I can already hear the objection: this is hypothetical fantasy. Of course it is. Its only purpose is to... Find out more

Denis Grégoire

"My real priority is to build a bridge from workers to policy makers."

In October 2015 Esther Lynch took over responsibility for occupational health and safety issues at the European Trade Union Confederation. The enthusiastic and energetic Irish trade unionist wants to shake up the European Commission’s complacency in an area that has remained stagnant for the last ten years. She is determined, in particular, to... Find out more

Working conditions in construction: a paradoxical invisibility

Every day we pass a building site. The work being carried out can seem rather mundane: who has not done some painting, plastering or odd jobs while doing DIY? And yet work in the building industry is shrouded in mystery. The coordination of multiple human activities gives rise to impressive structures. Under what conditions? Work in the... Find out more

Jan Cremers

Construction labour, mobility and non-standard employment

Construction industry workers were long regarded as enjoying not unfavourable working conditions. While their work was hard, the rewards included a high level of job security, decent pay, and various bonuses. This state of affairs was knocked off balance by the free movement of labour in an eastwards enlarged Europe where job competition among... Find out more

Rachel Knaebel

Posted workers: "You always have to fight to get paid."

Poles form one of the largest contingents of European posted workers in the construction sector. What are their working, living and housing conditions? Why do they continue despite the insecurity and cheating? Testimony of Piotr, a Polish crane operator. Piotr is a crane operator. He lives in a medium-sized town in the northeast of Poland. But only... Find out more

Denis Grégoire

Posting of workers: the view of those losing out

Relative to its total population, Belgium is the European country that has seen most posted workers in recent years. How do Belgian construction workers view this “competition”? What are its consequences in terms of pay, working conditions and mental health? The view of union representatives and leaders. "The construction sector is silently dying a... Find out more

Stephen Schindler

Asbestos – Not a problem of the past

Though asbestos has been banned in the European Union since 2005, it continues to represent a considerable threat to the health of workers and the population at large. The former are particularly exposed when working in buildings that were constructed using asbestos products, and the older the building, the greater the risk. To halt perpetuation of... Find out more

Emmanuel Sanséau

How a handful of women intend to change the face of British construction

Initially conceived as a short-term project attached to the construction of the London Olympic Park, Women Into Construction has developed into a permanent organisation encouraging the employment of women in construction. Its challenge? To reverse centuries of male domination of the most segregated industry in the United Kingdom. While the results... Find out more

Rolf Gehring

Trade union mobilisation for safer construction machinery

Every year construction workers lose their lives in accidents involving machinery. Many of these accidents could have been prevented if the design of this machinery had taken better account of users’ opinions. A German expert in standardisation, who is a former building worker, has recently managed to convince the European institutions to amend two... Find out more

Denis Grégoire

Workers at the root of a bill to introduce a health record

In Belgium, a former union representative has uncovered a cluster of cancers in a telephone plant closed 15 years earlier. The mobilisation of former employees and the media coverage of their case have drawn the attention of two MPs to gaps in the legislation on the health surveillance of workers. Or how to shake things up through a local fight... Find out more

Elsa Fayner

After Rana Plaza: trade union mobilisation quickly blocked

After the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, a window of opportunity opened for the trade unions. But it was quickly closed. And although fire safety standards have been improved and the minimum wage increased, working conditions at the world’s second largest textile exporter still remain poor. On 24 April 2013 managers at the Rana Plaza textile... Find out more

Raiders of the inner body

Many chemicals are endocrine disruptors. These substances alter the production of hormones, which are the chemical messengers coordinating various functions in the human body. Stéphane Horel offers an illuminating metaphor: these are "tiny raiders of the inner body". The number of items containing them is growing exponentially. The list seems... Find out more

Denis Grégoire

The damned of electronics

At a time when the battle for market share is raging between Samsung and Apple, and when new pretenders to the throne are emerging, most consumers are unaware that, despite the different logos, their smartphones and tablets often come from the same factories. Half of all the electronic equipment sold around the world is in fact manufactured by the... Find out more

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Construction workers at the mercy of social dumping