Builders Oppose State Opening Contracts to Third-Country Bidders

By , 28 Jan 2020, 12:16 PM Business
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STA, 27 January 2020 - Representatives of Slovenian builders are protesting against what they perceive as the state opening doors wide to builders from third countries. This brings disloyal competition to Slovenian companies and results in fewer jobs and lower wages for Slovenian workers, they believe.

"Foreign bidders from third countries are disloyal competition to domestic contractors," Sonja Šmuc, the director general of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), said in a press release on Monday.

According to Šmuc, the exclusive criteria for picking contractors in public construction tenders is the lowest price, which means that bidders who are not bound with the collective bargaining agreement for the construction sector are strongly favoured.

She noted that the Slovenian construction sector had expanded by 3% last year, while its further development mostly depended on the state, as contracts awarded by the state represented 60% of the construction market.

"The contracting authority is opening doors for the construction of major infrastructural projects to companies from outside the EU much wider than other European countries do," Šmuc noted.

She added that these countries "have different welfare and worker standards" and wondered whether Slovenians would sit and watch if the state said it did not need Slovenian farmers as bread and milk could be imported from countries where people work for a few euros a day.

Jože Renar, director of the GZS's chamber of construction and building materials industry, said that what is hard to understand was the very fact that Slovenia was opening the door of its market to bidders from third countries so generously.

"What is even harder to understand is that they are allowed to pay their employees less than Slovenian companies have to pay their employees. Foreigners ignoring the achievements of Slovenian social dialogue in public tenders to get deals financed with taxpayer money defies the fundamental economic and welfare logic."

The chamber's president Kristjan Mugerli said that this way, contracting authorities undermine the efforts of social dialogue to secure higher wages and welfare standard for employees.

"By doing so, we also want to increase the extremely low interest of young people in Slovenia for construction professions, which is among the lowest in the EU," he added.

According to Oskar Komac of the Trade Union of Construction Workers, by making such decisions the state is sending a clear message to construction workers that "their wages, which are already low, are too high".

"This is social dumping in its most elementary form and consequences will be severe and lasting for the Slovenian construction sector, which has more than 60,000 workers and is one of the largest employers," he added.

Renar also stressed that thorough changes in public procurement procedures in this field were needed. "Slovenia should rethink its international economic guidelines and follow the EU guidelines on the participation of third-country bidders and goods on the EU public contract market."

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