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Construction companies adjust schedules

As 52-hour workweek approaches, firms plan ways to hit deadlines
June 29,2018
As the government’s new 52-hour workweek looms, construction companies are devising new schemes to make sure they hit their tight deadlines.

In the past, construction workers used to work overtime to make sure projects could be finished on schedule. Many companies have ongoing projects with deadlines calculated based on their past work patterns, so they’re looking for creative ways to meet their obligations while still abiding by the new labor law.

GS Engineering & Construction on Sunday announced a detailed flexible working schedule aimed at ongoing construction projects at home and abroad. It’s the first major Korean construction company to do so.

The company had divided its overseas construction projects into three categories - A, B and C - based on their difficulty. It will implement different flextime options for each group.

Group A includes the most demanding projects in Iraq, Egypt, Oman and remote areas within Saudi Arabia. The company will let these workers work an average of 52 hours over a three-month period. According to GS, employees will work six days a week for a total of 58 hours a week for the first 11 weeks and can take vacation for the last 15 days.

The C group is working in better construction environments in Singapore, Turkey and Australia. Workers will get 15 days off for every four months of work.

GS also said it will make break times more regimented so it will be easier to calculate total daily working hours. Workers will get a mandatory two-hour lunch break every day.

On domestic construction sites, workers will be able to use flextime in two-week blocks. Laborers hoping to work extra hours in a certain day have to report this to the company. The company will approve the request if the worker’s average working hours over two weeks do not surpass 52 hours.

“We crafted the new labor system based on feedback from our entry-level workers who worked on overseas sites during the last three years,” a GS spokesperson said. “We have been implementing the 52-hour workweek in test trials for about a month to minimize confusion.”

Other construction companies also plan to implement similar flextime schemes at their construction sites, though in less detail than the one proposed by GS.

Hyundai Development Company announced Tuesday that it will implement flextime on a two-week basis at construction sites. On Sundays, it will shut down its construction sites. Those wanting to work on Sundays will have to report to the company and will have to choose another day to rest.

Hanwha Engineering & Construction is considering a similar strategy and is currently waiting for an internal confirmation. Samsung C&T is also testing various flextime options before the new workweek goes into effect in July.

Construction companies complain that the new law could hurt their competitiveness, as they have to increase work hours as their project deadlines approach.

“It’s more effective for construction workers to work some more hours while they are on site, rather than delaying work to another day,” a source in the construction industry said.

According to a study released earlier this month by the Construction Economy Research Institute of Korea, costs incurred per construction project will rise by an average of 4.5 percent and a maximum of 14.5 percent due to the new 52 workweek.


BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]