Floods mean no summer holiday for some construction workers
Some of Luxembourg’s builders will work through their traditional August holiday to repair damage caused by recent flooding, the government announced on Wednesday.
The annual break, known as congé collectif, begins on Friday, when workers in the sector normally down tools for three weeks. It applies to a range of businesses, including engineering, plumbing and heating companies.
However, a number of exceptions have been granted and some employees will remain at work, the country’s labour inspectorate (Inspection du travail et des mines, ITM) said in a statement on Wednesday.
In mid-July Luxembourg was hit by flooding which damaged thousands of homes and businesses at an estimated cost of €120 million, according to the trade association for insurers.
“As a result of the flooding, this year, as was the case in 2019, exemptions have been granted in exceptional cases and at late notice,” the ITM said.
The vast majority of the total of 223 requests for exemptions were granted this summer, according to the ITM, with just 37 refused.
Checks will be carried out by inspectors, police and customs officers during the three-week holiday, the ITM warned, who will have the power to halt any work which has not been authorised in advance.
Last summer the break went ahead as planned after unions and employers failed to reach agreement on changes, which had been considered after staff did not work for five weeks from mid-March 2020 when sites were closed following the outbreak of the pandemic.
Workers' unions were adamant builders needed to have time off during the summer because people prefer to take summer holidays rather than winter holidays, Jean-Luc De Matteis, a representative of the OGBL, told The Luxembourg Times last year.
The five weeks when builders were home, unable to work due to the lockdown, "were not holidays, they were confined at home and that has to be clear", De Matteis added.
The construction sector has been particularly hardly hit by the effects of the lockdown and subsequent resumption of activities. A global supply shortage, mainly due to high demand from the USA and China, whose economies have bounced back from the initial impact of the pandemic, have caused the cost of various materials such as wood, steel, metal, cement and glass to soar, two government ministers said last month.
The government is allowing the building sector to put workers on furlough once more to help businesses stay afloat, has promised to pay builders more quickly, and has extended deadlines for completion of public projects for companies unable to access needed material.