The president of the Uruguayan Chamber of Construction (CCU), Alejandro Ruibalspoke with scope.com of various topics. Beyond the end of the works of PSU 2bets that the sector will remain at the good current level based on the good amount of real estate investments and a necessary reactivation of the public work.
Ruibal, who assumed the CCU last February, is also the executive director of the company saccem and leader of Penarol. He said that he wants to give a boost to the Chamber of Construction that goes beyond business, with a social perspective and a good relationship with the workers.
– Will there be a slowdown in the construction sector taking into account the end of the works of UPM 2?
– The UPM 2 plant, like the previous pulp mills but in particular this one, which has been very large, generated a very significant number of jobs. It was almost for almost three years in the center of the country, as an infrastructure project and others such as the railway and road works that also generated jobs that are ending. There is a strong impact on employment in the order of 10,000 jobs.
The good part of this is that the impact is cushioned by the construction of houses in some particular areas, especially private housing, together with the plans of the Ministry of Housing (MVOT) as the promoted housing and also road work. There is a significant drop in jobs from 62,000 active to approximately 52,000, which is still a very high number.
– Can it be said that in the eastern part of the country there is a “boom” in construction, in the real estate sector and that also helps to counteract this effect?
– I am not very much in favor of the “boom” concept, but I would tell you that it exists in some parts of the country. In the east, I believe that there is a peak in construction, but I also believe that there is still a good rate of construction in housing and buildings in some areas of Montevideo, like the accesses from the east. But hey, in general the housing sector in Montevideo, cannelloni, maldonadohas had a very important activity in these years.
– At the level of public works, what are the major challenges? Have interested foreign companies appeared?
– He Ministry of Transport and Public Works (MTOP) It comes with very good activity and a very good level of investment. Other than that, public works lag a bit behind, awaiting some projects, such as those related to drinking water and sanitation that have been announced and that we are waiting for to materialize. It must be taken into account that the investment of the municipalities is very uneven. Canelones, like Maldonado, have invested, but Montevideo has a fairly low level of investment in public works.
There have always been foreign companies working in Uruguay because I know it is very open to receive them and bid. In this sense, what worries us is that sometimes some companies Argentina that they have in their fixed costs, structures that with the exchange rate have an important advantage such as machinery, for example, so this is an issue that generates a bit of “dumping” towards our companies.
– What about the competitiveness of the dollar issue? Does it affect them and how?
– That is a sensitive issue, perhaps not as much as in other sectors. Those who build buildings sell the apartments in dollars, but they were in pesos when the work was built. So that, to a certain extent, is cushioned by the business’s own numbers, but there are businesses that begin to weaken and not close their accounts.
And then many times, for example, foreign clients who come to set up investments try to have contracts in foreign currency such as the dollar and the euro, but ours are basically in pesos, so we have had an impact.
– Regarding collective bargaining, what expectations are there for this round of the Wages Council? Is there an expectation that wages accompany inflation?
– We just started talking, we had a couple of meetings. It’s too early, but the construction sector is the sector that did not have a loss of real wages in this period and the intention is to continue like this. But we’ll see, we just started to sit at the table, there are a number of aspects beyond salary. With the Sunca (National Union of Construction and Annexes) we have our differences, but also points of agreement and we will discuss and try to agree.
– Do you think it will be a particularly conflictive year?
– I hope no. That is of no use to anyone. Neither to the companies, nor to the country nor to the workers. When mature agreements can be reached and when we have a history of achieving them and protecting jobs, it can be done.
– Are you working on aspects that have a little more than economics?
– Yes it’s true. We are working, also raising a flag that Sunca has raised, which is the issue of addiction control, both for workers and the family of construction workers.
We agree on that and we have put it on our agenda. We understand that we have to help with that. We have several years of experience working together with the workers, in the different funds that we have. We have built some of the funds to help with school supplies for the workers’ children, which works very well. I think that is an example that our industry can share with others. They are not projects for the grandstand, but trying to do things that really have this effect.