Thursday 14 December 2017

Building sector collapse sees 40,000 lose jobs

Capital controls have led to a massive plunge in Greece's construction industry
Capital controls have led to a massive plunge in Greece's construction industry
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

It's a familiar chapter that could have been take straight from the Irish recessionary story.

More than 40,000 constructions workers in Greece have lost their jobs in the last week.

With growing anxiety in the country as to whether banks will re-open even weeks from now, the latest casualties of the crisis are the tens of thousands who had managed to hold onto their jobs despite years of cutbacks.

SATE, the Association of Greek Contracting Companies estimated that 90pc of all projects in the country have stalled as a result of the capital controls introduced last week.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Dimitrios Constantinidis, the General Secretary of SATE said the situation was dire adding the entire industry had now stopped operating.

While the only construction taking place in the country in recent months were public builds, funded by the European Union, the past 10 days have seen them collapse entirely.

The industry directly employs in the region of 150,000 workers. However, last week just over a quarter of them were laid off, because there was no longer any way to pay them.

"Things have been very difficult but last week it became more so. No money was left, the banks were not able to pro vide financing and our suppliers outside the country could not be paid and so we could not have anything imported.

"Everybody lost hope in a deal from this government," he said.

Mr Constantinidis said road projects, waste treatment plants and building constructions had been stopped all over the country.

"Only the projects that cannot stop remain. We believe 90pc have stopped and last week we estimate 40,000 workers were terminated.

"The other workers have been given a leave of absence," he added.

The civil engineer is involved in the vital waste water treatment plant in Thessalonika.

"The project cannot stop even with no pay. For many projects there are safety issues if they closed. And so we must continue. First we will die, then we will stop," he said.

During the height of the boom, the construction sector accounted for 6pc of Greek GDP with 395,000 employees. The number employed had dropped to 162,000 by 2013.

While many of the newly laid off workers have returned to their hometowns, others have made for the city of Athens in the hopes of securing some work.

But they are being left with little hope when they arrive, instead meeting colleagues who have been struggling for years to find new employment.

Nikos Polonos (55) lost his job as a construction worker three years ago. With no hope of a buidling job, he sought any other option.

"I never believed I would end up like this, but my construction skills are not in demand now.

"I know a lot of colleagues who are looking for work but there is no hope," he said.

Mr Constantinidis is eager for an agreement to end the current instability.

"As employers we were paying our taxes, every month about 30pc went to the Government or to pension funds. The stopping of projects will be catastrophic for the Government balance."

Irish Independent

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