The number of undeclared workers in the construction industry has dropped since 2009, labour minister Zeta Emilianidou said on Saturday at the 21st annual general meeting of the Federation of Associations of Building Contractors (OSEOK).
In her address, read by her ministry’s director of labour department, Alexandros Alexandrou, she said in 2016 the percentage of undeclared workers in the construction industry, 24 per cent, had dropped since 2009, when the numbers were almost 29 per cent.
Since April 2009 until the first quarter of 2016, there have been more than 17,300 inspections especially in the construction industry, she said. She added that inspection units continue and intensify checks.
“Everyone can understand the negative implications of this phenomenon, which is not just a work issue but also a societal one, which creates the need for continuous and additional measures,” the minister said.
The exacerbation of the phenomenon of illegal and undeclared employment, she said, is an issue that has been affecting “your profession for several years now and is directly linked to the performance of employment and unemployment in the industry.
“Such phenomena erode the economy and the admittedly successful industrial relations system in Cyprus, with side effects the creation of unfair competition that works to the detriment not only of workers but of also all businesses and employers that stand for their seriousness and professionalism,” Emilianidou said.
She said her ministry is making efforts to combat illegal and undeclared work and that toward that end “we proceed with the preparation of a comprehensive bill, to tackle undeclared work both with laws and modern and computerised methods”.
The government has among its top priorities the financial recovery through adopting structural reforms and socially acceptable measures in all areas of work including the construction industry.
In his address, the head of OSEOK, Costas Roushias said that the economic crisis primarily affected the construction industry. He added that “almost zero demand for new construction, combined with the haircut of deposits, and depriving the market of cash flow, left a large portion of our fellow contractors exposed to intolerable economic risks leading almost most of them to owe huge amounts of money and in the end to close down their business.”
Roushias also said that a possible settlement of the Cyprus problem, “will lead to new opportunities for growth and new economic data, which will finally put an end to the recession and will mark a bright economic future for our country”.
But until this day occurs, he said, “we have to face realities, such that would require us to be vigilant every day, so that we can keep our companies alive and to continue their operation”.
He added that the completion of all state projects announced, but also the extraction and use of all available European funds should be seen as a necessity.
In his turn, works minister Marios Demetriades said €16m has been secured from the European Union Structural Funds for 2014-2020 to finance energy projects to upgrade public buildings to decrease energy consumption by 3 per cent per year.