Infection clusters have been identified at several construction sites. According to the large companies, the problem areas have been addressed, but according to the union representing construction workers, the situation has not changed for the better.
“Restrictions there is a lot, but the actual work has progressed well, ”he says Pekka Kääpä.
He stands on the construction company YIT’s construction site in Konala, Helsinki. There are two apartment buildings around, with a total of almost a hundred apartments being completed. About 50 employees work on the buildings every day.
“Yes, the spirit of the gang here is such that Korona is taken seriously,” foreman Kääpä assures.
The same cannot be said for the construction industry more broadly.
Extensive chains of infection have been found on the construction sites of several companies. Large clusters of infection have been observed at the University of Helsinki construction site, the Western Metro construction site and a large construction site in Vantaa, among others.
In February, HS asked about the coronavirus situation at construction sites through an open online survey. It turned out that corona measures are often very deficient. The majority of the 85 respondents expressed concerns about the employer’s lack of precaution.
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According to the Construction Association, which represents construction workers, the situation has not changed significantly. The union is constantly being contacted about the poor health safety of construction sites.
“The overall situation is grim,” says the union president Matti Harjuniemi.
“The message about the severity of the virus doesn’t seem to be getting through, and it’s not being passed on.”
Some however, tightening has been introduced. A mask was forced on YIT’s construction sites a few weeks ago. Another large construction company, SRV, also says that it has introduced an “absolute mask coercion” and made additional restrictions on the number of people in elevators, for example.
YIT’s Vice President, Human Resources Pii Raulon according to the number of infections has been reduced from a peak about a month ago.
“We now have clearly fewer infections than a month ago. One reason may be restricting cross-border movement, ”says Raulo.
According to the Construction Industry, which promotes the interests of construction companies, the level of hygiene on construction sites has been improved and arrivals and breaks have been staggered.
“Precautions have been bitten, but there is no denying that they are not bad examples,” says the labor market director. Kim Kaskiaro.
Construction sites have also appeared in the news about the corona epidemic because of the large number of foreigners working in the field.
Among non-Finnish and Swedish speakers, the virus has spread more rapidly. Mayor of Vantaa Ritva Viljanen said early this weekthat one reason for the relatively higher rate of infection among foreign speakers is in occupations.
“Many are in occupations where telecommuting is not possible, and many may live in cramped conditions. We have a lot of international labor from abroad, and large clusters of infections have been noticed in Vantaa, for example on construction sites, ”Viljanen said.
In Uusimaa, approximately one in three people working in the building construction industry is a foreigner, and elsewhere in Finland about one in ten.
One third of YIT’s employees at Konala’s construction site also have a foreign background. One of the site’s subcontractors is the painting and leveling company LTU, through which Uzbek people have come to work on Konala’s buildings. Kuvonchbek Salimov and Izzat Yuldashov.
Salimov lives permanently in Finland with his family. He has been in Finland for about six years.
Yuldashov, on the other hand, lives in a shared cabin in Helsinki. He has a room in a triple apartment.
“It’s going to get cheaper,” Yuldashov says.
Yuldashov’s wife and three children are in Uzbekistan and he hasn’t seen them in about a year.
Both Yuldashov and Salimov say they fully understand the restrictions made to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They speak Russian and follow instructions in Russian. In their opinion, the situation at the construction site has been handled objectively.
“Everything is just fine,” Yuldashov says.
The majority of the employees of the painting and leveling company LTU are foreigners, mainly Uzbeks and Ukrainians. CEO of the company Malik Bentaieb is tired of pointing accusing fingers at foreign workers.
“It’s wrong to murmur the construction industry in this regard. In the same way, there are infections in the transport industry and other professions where work cannot be done remotely, ”says Bentaieb.
Coronavirus infections there is some information on occupational differences, but there is uncertainty about the comparison.
Helsinki Graduate School of Economics (GSE) report published in January according to relatively most infections were among painters and building cleaners. Building finishing workers also had a lot of infections. The statistics covered infections detected up to last November.
Both in Finland and in many other countries, more infections are found in the lower social classes. This partly explains why people with a foreign background are overrepresented in infection rates.
On the other An Estonian works on the Helsinki side Raid Anni. He is an employee of the personnel service company Barona, who is the beak man, ie the leader of the group in the pipe repair in Suutarila. In plumbing repairs, work is done in small and cramped spaces. The work has been staggered more due to the virus.
“You can’t be alone everywhere, but you have to do these things together on the construction site. But safety above all and masks on the head. ”
Anni has worked in Finland for 16 years. The home is in Estonia, but he has not been there for a couple of months due to tighter entry restrictions. Ordinary construction work is not considered a critical task, so it is currently not possible to enter Finland.
“I don’t know where such an idea has come from that Estonians all live cramped and in a caravan. We all live alone, ”says Anni.
The personnel services company Barona has about 900 employees on construction sites, about a third of whom are foreigners. Industry Director Timo Aholan according to foreign workers do not appear in the company’s infection statistics as a higher group than others. The same is said of YIT.
The Barona also provides accommodation for foreign workers. According to Ahola, the facilities have already been vacated last spring so that everyone has their own room.
“In smaller companies, efforts have been made to press down costs much more aggressively, as a result of which accommodation may not be relaxed. However, in this situation, it will be much cheaper than having a large number of employees on sick leave or in quarantine, ”says Ahola.
Construction when it comes to viral infections, many look for culprits elsewhere. Finnish construction workers easily identify foreign workers and large companies small operators in the field.
The construction industry, which represents the interests of companies in the sector, also sees room for improvement in the activities of the authorities. The construction industry would like more testing to be done on construction sites. In February, Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa set up a working group to promote mass testing in construction companies.
“It would be best for the site to be taken over at once. Now it’s time to run. There are reportedly no resources available for preventive testing. The problem is that quarantine and tracing is an official activity, which means that occupational health care cannot handle it in the same way, ”says Kaskiaro.
The Construction Union, which represents workers, believes that the pandemic will further highlight the structural problems in the construction sector. According to Chairman Harjuniemi, one of them is looking for cheaper labor abroad and neglecting the well-being of employees.
He does not believe that the viral situation on construction sites will improve significantly even after vaccinations progress to the working-age population.
“The Customer Liability Act requires subcontractors to provide occupational health care to their employees. It is our own perception that no foreigner actually has occupational health care. ”
Therefore, according to Harjuniemi, “it is completely pointless to think” that all construction workers would be vaccinated.
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