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Civil engineers are also against the liberalization of the labor market

08 January 2011 / 14:01:43  GRReporter
7658 reads

Marina Nikolova


Nikos Zigouris is chairman of the Union of Construction engineers in Greece and talk to us not only about the results from the liberalization of the profession, but also for the crisis in the construction and disastrous lack of government investment.


In what way will the occupation of Civil Engineers be affected by the law for the liberalization of the labor market?

I must stress that the profession of engineers as a whole - not just civil engineers, is not a closed profession. It is included into the discussion about the closed professions, but it is not. Closed professions are those which have either a numerical or geographical restriction. The profession of the engineer can be practiced by anyone who has the necessary qualities - after graduating from the university, one must pass examinations and if he passes them successful, he is entitled to exercise the profession. We are involved in the discussion of closed professions, because we are affected by the code of minimum wage, which is applied in Greece. When an engineer does his job, there is one way to calculate his minimum wage. The new law eliminates this. The point is that minimum wages currently applied, are often lower than what the engineer needs to be paid and if we leave it to him to decide, this payment will vary. The work that engineers do is related to the security of a building which we can not subject it to negotiations and say that would make a less safe home and you will pay us less. The house will be made according to security rules. But engineers like all other people work to live with the money they earn. At the moment they can offer several alternatives for the building to be stable but also economical. This however will no longer be the case. The home will be stable and secure, but will be at the expense of the economy. The removal of payments will affect the engineers, but it will eventually at a certain moment turn against society itself. The government will have to reflect on the fact that it loses revenues. When taking a given project and get 1000 euro, the government taxes them, but tomorrow when I go to pay my tax these 1000 euro, as there will be no contract for minimum wage, will be 400, i.e. the tax will be on those 400 and the VAT also will be on that amount. I.e. the state will lose.


In the last year there is an incredible drop in the construction industry, which is one of the most affected by the crisis areas. How has this affected you – the civil engineers?

It is clear that the profession of the engineers as a whole is affected a lot. This is another mistake of the government – although I don’t want to dabble in politics at this moment. When last year the government was elected, we met with the Secretary General for Economic Affairs and told him that what must be done in any case, to keep the economy and quality of life of the Greeks at an acceptable level is that they need to facilitate construction. A choice of the government was not to support construction and even turn against it by putting high taxes, increase value added tax without being able to stop the increase in prices of construction materials. So, the logical consequence was to decline the job of Civil Engineers, but also of 400 000 people employed in other 400occupations  related to construction. And it's clear the government's responsibility - it is a political choice. This is with regard to private projects, but there are also government projects. These include studies and construction, but none of these things is undergoing any longer because the program for public investment has been suspended and second - currently the Kalikratis program applies for the reorganization of the public administration. According to the Kalikratis program different departments unite and currently you can not turn to anyone for help because no one knows who is who and services do not work right now which will last for a long time.


When will the program of public investment start operationg?

The state will determine this, but money for this program is constantly decreasing. According to the data, large companies of contractors are firing employees, unemployment among civil engineers has risen to very high levels. It is not easy to understand how much, because engineers are freelance professionals and their firms are considered to be active. But you can see what is happening around us and how many people remain jobless. On the other hand the state owes a lot of money to some companies.


Last year the way of payment of taxes for engineers changed. How does the new system?

In June 2010 we had a surprise – an unpleasant one for us engineers. Before we were subjected to taxation under an objective system according to coefficients. This was done because costs can not be accurately determined. Last year the government decided that we will keep accounts – we will calculate revenue minus costs and will pay tax on the resulting difference. I had my objections on this issue, but we'll see what happens. I believe that this system will not work.


Tags: news society economic crisis civil engineers construction bioclimatic buildings technical professions technical schools
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