TALLINN - The Estonian Association of Construction Enterprises has complained that local construction companies are not ensured free competition either in the Baltics or in the wider European Union.
While the local construction market is open to competition from the entire EU, Estonian builders claim that, since the country became a bloc member, companies have faced obstacles with conducting business in other EU member states.
"In Latvia and Lithuania, the system of construction licenses, dating back to the Soviet era, is still in effect. Elsewhere in Europe, trade unions are doing everything they can based on collective agreements to foil adherence to European Union principles concerning the free movement of services and labor," the Estonian Association of Construction Enterprises said at its meeting last week.
Tarmo Lige, managing director of the association, said that the EU must do more to prevent local trade unions from demanding that Estonian construction firms pay wages of the same size based on existing collective agreements set with local workers.
He added that bilateral agreements between the employer and the employee, on the one hand, and the contracting entity/main contractor and subcontractor, on the other, worked well.
If agreements between these parties exist, no third party should have the right to interfere, Lige said.
"Some time ago trade unions in Sweden squeezed a Latvian construction company out of that market," he added, referring to Laval & Partners, a firm that had been contracted to repair a suburban Stockholm school but was booted after trying to pay a group of Latvian electricians lower wages.
"We are keen to see the outcome of this case that has been submitted to the European court," Lige said.
According to the association, restrictions have seriously affected the volume of work performed by Estonian construction companies abroad.
The Statistical Office has reported that the share of overseas work in Estonian companies' total volume declined from 8.2 percent in 2001 to 2 percent in the first three quarters of 2004.