For the SIT union, this case illustrates the problem of cascading subcontracting in construction, with unpaid workers at the end of the chain.
“Twenty years ago we denounced the problem of subcontracting on construction sites, but this is really a textbook case.” The SIT union invited the press to Onex this Thursday, in front of a building under construction, to highlight the bad practices of a formwork company. Burdened with debt, Company X owes hundreds of thousands of francs to various creditors and their employees.
As evidenced by an extract from the debt collection record, she owes money to taxes, the AVS fund, SUVA accident insurance, etc. The SIT points out that it is a case of misappropriation of social security contributions, since they are deducted from the salary, but not paid to the insurance. In addition, there is a lot of delay in the payment of salaries. According to the union, the company accumulates around 300,000 fr. arrears of wages.
“Reinforcement and formwork are often subcontracted by general contractors, and small actors, who mainly employ undocumented immigrants, specialize in these areas,” explains Martin Malinovski, union secretary. Competition is fierce, so there is strong pressure on prices. It is impossible to respect conventional wages under these conditions.”
SIT knows this company well. “Before it existed under another name and its two founders already had almost half a million lawsuits”, explains Thierry Horner, secretary of the union. After going bankrupt, they founded Company X.” History is likely to repeat itself, as today the two men withdrew from the latter, whose administration was entrusted to a trustee known for liquidating companies.
“The practices of this company are known, as the mixed commission, which includes the employers’ circles, has already been interested in them in the past.”
Thierry Horner, union secretary
In 2017, before the Labor Court, the union ordered his former company to pay tens of thousands of francs in arrears to an employee. With such a record, SIT is surprised to continue to win mandates, sometimes awarded by large renowned public works companies in the area. “The practices of this company are known, however, since the mixed committee, which includes employers’ circles, has already been interested in the past”, observes Thierry Horner.
Normally, in order to obtain mandates, a subcontractor must present a “multipack” certificate, granted by a compensation fund, certifying that he is up to date with taxes, social security contributions, etc. “So either the GGE (Group of Construction and Civil Engineering Companies of Geneva), of which company X is a member, provided a false certificate, or their directors were not very careful. One of these companies also admitted to us that they had not asked to see the certificate.
GGE secretary Peter Rupf confirms that company X has not obtained a “multipack” certificate – which must be renewed regularly – for a year. “His case is clearly problematic,” he admits. But not all general contractors verify that their subcontractors have this certificate. They mainly look at the price of services.
Antoine Grosjean He has been a journalist in the Geneva section since 2001. He covers regional news, particularly in the areas of the environment, climate issues and energy transition. He also worked for several years in the Swiss section.
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