BESIX Group and trade unions call on Belgium to support ILO recognition of occupational health and safety as a fundamental right

7 February 2022

On Saturday 5 February 2022, in Dubai, BESIX Group, the Belgian trade unions FGTB and CSC, and the Building and Wood Workers' International (BWI), officially called upon the Belgian government to support the recognition by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) of health and safety at work as a fundamental right. On this occasion, they handed over their ‘Declaration for safe and healthy workplaces’ to Mr Pierre-Yves Dermagne, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy and Employment, in the presence of Mrs Sophie Wilmès, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

This event took place on Belgium Day at the Dubai World Expo, honoured by the presence of King Philippe of Belgium, Queen Mathilde of Belgium, and representatives of the ILO regional offices for Arab States and for the European Union and the Benelux-countries.

The importance of occupational safety and health is already reflected in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as well as in the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Geert Aelbrecht, Chief People Officer of BESIX Group: “I would like to sincerely thank the Belgian Government for its support and commitment to workers’ rights. Since 2017 and the signing of an international framework agreement, BESIX Group, the FGTB, the CSC and the BWI have been moving forward hand in hand to ensure and promote high international standards of well-being at work. The 'Declaration for Safe and Healthy Workplaces' is another step we are proud of: health and safety is a priority for BESIX Group and its subsidiaries in each of the countries where we operate. By making it a fundamental right, the ILO will be able to support the implementation of better working conditions for all on a global scale.”

Occupational health and safety are a priority policy for BESIX Group on each of its construction sites throughout the world, starting with each employee or worker and calling on everyone's responsibility daily to ensure the quality of their working life and that of their colleagues, including when they are employed by partners and suppliers on site. BESIX Group also goes beyond the usual safety measures. This is the case, for example, with the BE SAFE program, which follows a positive and behavioral approach to safety, and which has demonstrated over the last few years the relevance of empowerment and mutual support on site to improve the quality of life at work.

The international framework agreement signed in 2017 between BESIX Group and the BWI, of which the FGTB and the CSC are members, aims to promote the well-being and safety of people on construction sites, for BESIX Group, for the group's subsidiaries and project partners. BWI is a global union federation of 351 unions in 127 countries, representing about 12 million workers.

The framework agreement includes an independent mechanism to monitor BESIX Group's human rights practices, with free access for BWI to construction sites, but also to migrant workers' housing in the Middle East, for example. In this context, the BWI and the BESIX European Works Council have organized independent missions in recent years to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Morocco, and Ivory Coast, thus ensuring effective monitoring of BESIX Group's compliance and efforts in the field of health and safety at work.

For more information about BESIX Group's practices in respecting and promoting the fundamental rights of migrant workers in the Middle East, we invite you to consult the page of our website dedicated to this topic and to contact us for further information.

About BESIX Group

BESIX is a leading Belgian group, based in Brussels and operating in 25 countries and on 5 continents, in the construction, real estate development and concessions sectors. Active since 1909, its iconic achievements include Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world.

For more than a decade, BESIX Group has made occupational health and safety one of its main objectives and key performance indicators in its operational activities and reports on its achievements every two years. In addition, most of the Group's entities are also ISO 45001 certified and BESIX has become an IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health) certified training center.

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