And the short circuit also came to construction
The decree that paralyzed all works affects 1.8 million workers and casts doubt on the future of the sector
The noise of the machinery has stopped around the Santiago Bernabéu, one of the great works that these days have been frozen throughout Spain. Silence coexists with the chirping of birds and the whistle of traffic lights in front of the stadium. Something unusual. The works had become the symbol of that Madrid that continued to function while almost all citizens lived in confinement. Finally, after pressure from politicians and professionals, all non-essential jobs have closed. At the moment, until after Easter.
The pit is the main protagonist of the stop ordered by the Government on March 29 . The decree that obliges to stop all non-essential activity affects almost 1.8 million monthly jobs in the sector, 500,000 of them indirect, according to calculations by Seopan, the employers’ association of large construction companies and infrastructure concessionaires. A survey by the General Council of Technical Architecture of Spain (CGATE), which groups together professional associations throughout the territory, indicates that 89% of the works have been stopped , all those that are neither urgent nor of general interest.
Before the decree, only 34% of the works had been voluntarily suspended, which “placed workers in the construction sector in a situation of vulnerability to the spread of the virus,” according to Alfredo Sanz, president of the council of architects technicians. That body, along with those of architects and public works engineers, had requested the Government to stop the sector . A measure that for Juan López-Asiain, director of the CGATE Technical Cabinet, is not particularly complicated from the operational point of view. “I think the difficulty of opening will be greater, but more because of the fact that this specific crisis leaves companies in a delicate situation,” he values.
Although he had not requested it, Seopan is also not opposed to a closure decided by public health criteria. But it has criticized certain precipitation, like the employers of real estate developers APCE. The Prime Minister announced the extension of the confinement on Saturday 28 and the decree was published almost at midnight from Sunday to Monday, with a period of 24 hours to comply. That forced numerous issues to be resolved through ministerial orders on Monday. The technical drawbacks — from securing a cut to prevent it from collapsing due to inactivity, to guaranteeing temporary deviations from works on public roads — were resolved, but there are still issues to be resolved.
“There are companies that continue to bear fixed costs, because they cannot fire, along with financial maturities and in the face of a complicated income scenario,” says Julián Nuñez, president of Seopan. His organization asks the government for liquidity measures “to go through this difficult April.” Sources in the sector add that it would be important to be able to benefit, as other activities, from temporary employment regulation (ERTE) files due to force majeure.
Construction employees, by virtue of last Sunday’s decree, have been on paid leave for a week and will remain so until at least April 9, counting on the following day being a holiday (Good Friday) and then there is a weekend . But unions describe a different reality. “As there is a lot of temporary or construction contracts, many small companies have done is to fire,” says Pedro Leaves, general secretary of the Federation of Industry, Construction and Agriculture (FICA) of UGT. Construction demanded labor until a month ago, but the fear is that once the epidemic is over, many companies may not resume immediately or wait a few months to see how the economic situation evolves.
The self-employed also experience the reinforcement of the latest restrictions of the state of alarm with serious doubts. Arturo Wrobel is in trouble just like many other freelancers in construction. On Tuesday a control by the National Police stopped him on the way to the flat he is reforming in Madrid. They sent him back home under threat of a fine without even attending to the papers he carried as a safe-conduct. The pandemic led him to stop hiring other workers and he has been working alone for days. He knows that he does not carry out an emergency work such as the rupture of a pipeline or a failure in the electrical installation, but he complains about the doubts sown by the decree of last Sunday, although this only referred to workers on account alien.
The self-employed in construction continue to pay the Social Security fee. Wrobel’s management insists that these days he can continue working, but at the same time he asks him not to risk being fined. “If they didn’t charge me, I would be delighted. I stay at home ”, he argues. “We are in limbo,” complains Rafael E., who is in a similar situation. This freelance has finally chosen to stop the reform of a flat that he was carrying out in the center of Madrid and describes a reality that right now is full of questions: “No one will pay me on days when I don’t work, how do I recover me those days? ”.
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