The 20th Congress of the Trade Union of Construction and Wood (GBH) took place from 28 to 30 October 2019 at the Austria Center in Vienna, Austria under the motto of "Fair Work 4.0 - Better Life". Nearly 400 delegates and about 100 guests from political and social organizations, businesses and international institutions took part.
The delegates discussed the union’s activities report which include the 2016 GBH organizing drive which resulted in the recruitment of 10,800 new members, where 2,700 are active members of the works councils and 44 are national secretaries.
The changes in labour and social legislation in Austria, initiated by the new government since 2017, called for new and prompt responses to the many challenges faced by construction and wood workers in Austria. The 150 years jubilee of GBH in 2017 reminded the union of its roots and the numerous actions it has implemented.
Josef Muchitsch was reeclected as President with 98 percent of votes, who stressed, "We are a young, innovative, efficient and modern union. Our congress was largely paperless, in the spirit of sustainability. We have proven that we are always ready to think outside the box. We also see digitization as an opportunity and use it for the interests of the workers."
The delegates discussed and approved the work program of the GBH for the next five years that highlights the importance of cross border cooperation beyond national borders and at European and international level.
“We live in a Europe without borders, where we now have to solve national problems internationally. We will resolutely continue our ongoing fight against wage and social dumping and fair competition. With the introduction of a construction card, we want to use digitization and electronically record employees on construction sites. This is another important step in the fight against wage dumping. Flexibility must be fair. In the course of digitization, automation and flexibility, we will need new working time models to combat unemployment. Protecting health is especially important for employees in our industries. Working must not make workers sick,” said Josef Muchitsch.
Ambet Yuson, BWI General Secretary greeted the delegates saying, ”Not only are political dangers and trends, migration, and economic issues global, but so are questions related to the future of work. Too much of the international discussion has been driven by those standing to profit from digitalisation, artificial intelligence and other technological advances. This is an issue that we unions must tackle today. Today, on your congress, allow me to officially launch the BWI Publication on the future of construction workers. This study produced under the leadership of your President, Josef Muchitsch, who as the chair of the BWI Working Group on Future of Work will represent BWI in various global foras on Future of Work to ensure that our concerns and recommendations are included.”
The rights and interests of 240.000 workers in the construction, stone and wood sectors are represented in 23 Collective Bargaining Agreements. The GBH proved to be the leader in raising topics and issues at national and European level, through the campaigns such as the “No to 12 hours/60 hours week”, Another important issues for the union is heat stress, where it reached a free of heat regulation (when the temperature is higher than 32.5 Celcius) for construction workers as of 1 May 2019 in CBAs. Other important campaigns, included “Environment and Building” and “Faire Procurement Secure Jobs” where the last resulted in a regulation that obliges, as of 1 March 2019, owners of projects (clients) in contracts over 100,000 Euro, including works of sub-contractors, that they must be registered in the Construction Data Bank (BUAK) and be subject to an obligatory review of the offers.