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The construction denies the reality

The boom in construction makes the Euro ring in the coffers of large companies, without the ailing labor market having any of it. The business is done with false self-employment and precarious or illegal employment. The inhuman living and working conditions of the employees are accepted.

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Now the union IG BAU celebrated itself and that there should continue to be two industry minimum wages and thus “wage-keeping lines down” – especially for professional work. The arbitration ruling, which ended the minimum wage collective bargaining at the end of the year, includes that the wage lower limit for auxiliary work on the construction (minimum wage 1) nationwide from 1 April 2020 increased by 35 cents to 12.55 euros per hour and the second minimum wage for specialized work (minimum wage 2) will increase by 20 cents to 15.40 euros per hour. According to the Union, it has been possible to fend off the “attack on the previous minimum wage system” and to avoid a relapse to the statutory minimum wage of 9.35 euros per hour, which will apply from January.

However, nothing substantial will change in everyday practice on the construction site, as companies with skilful work contracts also try to subvert the statutory minimum wages and increasingly employ mainly migrant workers. What is the use of a generally binding industry minimum wage if the entrepreneur pretends to the employees to work as a subcontractor for the construction companies within the framework of a work contract?

The fragmentation of the labour market is hardly visible and imaginable for non - employees and professional politicians, but also increasingly for full-time union workers. You take maybe one or two groups, and have no insight into the lower groups. You don’t seem to have noticed that:

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The day and hour labourers

The part of the labour market in which the day and hour wage earners work is called, among other things, the “working class line” in the Ruhr Area towns and means those people who stand on the street and wait for an “employer” who lets them toil for a few hours for an “Appel and an egg”. It is easily overlooked that the circle of people is much larger than the people who are visible there.

Hardly anyone knows that there are real colonies in which people from the eastern neighboring countries live under plastic sheets as “illegal” people and are less and less competitive on the hourly wage market, since they are no longer able to do so in health terms.

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The increasing number of homeless people is also dependent on this employment, provided that the collecting of deposit bottles still leaves them time for it. The other bottle collectors have to work by the hour for a tip, because they cannot get by with the money from the job center or because of sanctions only receive a part of the standard rate.

All have in common is that they are part of the labour market and to the System of local wage work. You can make this clear using the example of the construction industry.

Construction is carried out in a largely closed System

In the hot summer weeks last year everything went a little slower than usual. Only on the precarious labour market The Post Office went off without interruption, around the clock. Entire columns of workers from Eastern Europe stood in the side streets of the cities, waiting for the Mercedes Sprinter to take them to the construction site. The corner pubs, which used to serve as a large living room for family celebrations, have now become Employment Agencies, which are open 24 hours and also provide sleeping places.

The Bullis of the Eastern European pseudo-self-employed in the neighborhood were started already loudly at 5.30 in the morning and that over 6 days a week. Striking were also the cars with the eastern license plates, which also serve as accommodation for several people and increased the parking lot need. Then there was the large real estate company from Berlin, which currently buys entire rows of houses and renovates the empty apartments. For this purpose, she had hired Polish workers, who conveniently rested on the camp beds in the apartments without electricity and water, if they did not work 7 days a week and hardly came to the door.

The overall system, which is structured like a pyramid, is based on these diverse working relationships in the construction sector.

Level 1

At the top of the pyramid, there is usually a consortium of companies that particularly likes to land public contracts, usually coupled with a powerful Investor and a good network in local and state politics. How such a thing works in practice can be seen in the creative economic centre around the U-Tower in Dortmund.

In 2008, the city of Dortmund received after long negotiations with the former black-yellow government of a country - and EU support for the reconstruction of the U-tower of around 32 million euros (The big “U” stands for the former Dortmund Union brewery. Note. L. N.). The condition of the approval was that the Dortmunder U should not only become a Museum, but also a centre for the creative industry.

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The Europe-wide tender was issued for a” Competence Centre for creative industries " for the construction of the Berufskolleg complex at the U-Tower. But no Investor really wanted to bite. In 2009, therefore, it was decided to change the tender criteria in such a way that in particular the time limit of the sector commitment is resolved in order to keep the economic risk for the private Investor of the creative business centre as low as possible.

A year-long legal dispute over the award followed. 5 years after the tender, a consortium of the company Kölbl Kruse and Hochtief was awarded the contract for the construction project. The project now included two vocational colleges, which are rented by the city for around 4.6 million euros a year, and a Competence Center for creative industries, which the client was to market himself.

Even at the beginning, it was scandalous to conceal the fact that the requirement for a rental as a creative economy Centre was only binding for two years and that this binding period had already expired when the entire building complex had not yet been completed. At that time, however, the complex was already leased to Thyssengas, which built its headquarters with 190 employees directly at the U-Tower in spring 2016. The full-bodied acclaimed creative economic center of the U-tower was filmed behind-the-Scenes tricky.

Level 2

After the company consortia come the large subcontractors, who each carry out the individual construction phases and are paid for it. In most cases, they do not award individual contracts to other, smaller subcontractors themselves, but instead employ workers from other subcontractors who are all under pressure to deliver the work on time. At this level, too, it is essential to have built up a good network with other entrepreneurs, including smaller companies.

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If the pressure becomes too great, then either groups of construction workers from other companies have to be employed by the hour or pseudo-self-employed workers from the eastern neighbouring countries are employed to bridge bottlenecks. So it may be that the same workers can be found at two to three construction sites in one day. This flexible work is done on the phone, so to speak, that work is done on another construction site within a short time. The workers can be used completely flexibly and paid by cash, without any insurance and social benefit claims. When the deadline presses, they are used again elsewhere and then cover several construction sites at the same time. The migrant workers, usually well-trained professionals, live in their own cars or in the specially rented overcrowded apartments, with usually overpriced daily rent payments.

Level 2 is also the area in the building pyramid where the spectacular company insolvencies take place, which often delay the completion of the construction. Insolvency can contribute to writing debts to creditors into the Wind, to leaving out money stored in the tax haven, to ignoring the invoices of the craft businesses and to registering a new trade or founding a new company as a “second Chance”.

Level 3

As already mentioned, within the scope of the flexible employment of workers, pseudo-self-employed persons, formerly mostly with a Portuguese passport, today rather with a Polish passport, are employed by the subcontractors of Level 2. There is only working against Cash, because only in this way the flexibility is really guaranteed.

The pseudo self-employed could and can secure their stay through this employment, but must first go into debt in order to finance a vehicle, Material and accommodation. You are able to flatten the time pressure and the number of workers, mostly country people, precisely for the job. The cash received by the fictitious self-employed person is passed on with the deduction of the own share. Social Security contributions, taxes, health insurance, occupational insurance and Pension Insurance contributions are not paid.

After the bogus self-employed person has earned a good name with the subcontractors over the course of months, he can be selected from Level 2 to also receive larger orders and turn on the larger wheel. Then suddenly up to 30 workers are mobilized, who are accommodated in cheap hotels and take care of the larger orders against Cash and unannounced.

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For the pseudo self-employed, this goes well for a time, until the customs or the tax office, the health and pension insurance or the public prosecutor appear on the Plan. Not infrequently, prison sentences are imposed and the public creditors file for insolvency over the assets of the pseudo self-employed. The person concerned, to whom all loans are also due, usually does not know what is happening and how he should behave.

Sometimes they do not have the language skills to behave appropriately, not to mention the legal obligations of an employer and find a prison sentence completely excessive, especially since they have experienced the System on the German construction as normality. A new victim of the Bau system has taken the place of the pseudo-self, who was allowed to play for a short time on Level 2, so the whole thing goes on and on.

Level 4

The current construction boom has not led to exploding numbers of officially employed workers in a normal employment relationship on the construction. The previous construction system will continue unchanged, and the scarcity of the construction supply will increase the profits of the large companies. The workers that level 3 is currently desperately looking for can be found on the day and hour wage market, and for skilled work on construction, the workers are driven directly by buses from the eastern neighboring countries or come here in their cars.

The workers are temporarily housed, often having to pay high rents for sleeping in the run-down house. Many stay in their cars. During your stay, you are usually not covered by accident or health insurance.

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If you fit well into the construction System, you will be admitted to Level 3 despite poor language and legal knowledge and take part in the game as a bogus self - employed. However, the majority of them are available to the labour market as day and hour workers. They accept all this in order to keep their families afloat in their country of origin. There, then, these extremely mobile workers are lacking.

There are hardly any controls

In order to prevent or even reduce illegal employment, the financial control of undeclared work (FKS) would finally have to be equipped in such a way that it can fulfil the control function it has. In 2017, FKS investigated significantly fewer companies for violations than in the previous year. A total of 40.374 employers have been verified, and thus, approximately 3,000 less than in 2016. In the construction industry, there was even a decline in the controls of almost 20 percent on 13.473.

In addition, around 1.8 million employees are still being cheated out of the minimum wage. The FKS would therefore have to be massively increased by at least 10,000 jobs out of the approximately 7,200 in order to be able to control the minimum wage across the board. On the other hand, the federal government considers its plan to provide 1,600 additional jobs by 2022 to be sufficient, which encourages employers to continue the open breach of the law. They have already developed an incredible amount of creativity in bouncing workers around their wages and splintering the labour market.

Therefore, it is currently more necessary than ever before to introduce collective legal protection into labour law. This is nothing new, most European legal systems have a statutory minimum wage as well as a right of union action for a long time. Only this helps to enforce legally documented property rights without the individual having to accept disadvantages.

If this were enforced, it would also be a reason to celebrate, also for the industrial union Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt.