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Construction projects: shift work – Saturday work – establishment of a mobile works team
Question posed by Héloïse Bock
Whilst construction projects are, of course, necessary, it is well known that works for the tram line and other projects across the city are causing a certain degree of inconvenience (to say the least) to residents, businesses and visitors.
With a view to introducing measures to continuously improve quality of life for everyone, I would like to ask the following questions:
1. Accelerating progress on construction projects through the introduction of shift work
- When, and on which projects, do the contractors for the City's construction projects work in shifts?
- Has this way of working been implemented 1. for the tram works in Kirchberg, and/or 2. in the new Cloche d'Or district?
- Has this approach, which would help speed up the progress of the works, also been applied in other places? If so, where, and under what conditions (two or three shifts)?
2. Works on Saturdays
- When, and on which sites, do the contractors for the City's construction projects work on Saturdays?
- Under what conditions are works carried out on these days (continuous work, on a one-off basis, etc.)?
3. Quick roll-out of a mobile works team: monitoring of cleanliness, access to and visibility of local businesses, and appropriate diversions, for both traffic and pedestrians
- Is it feasible to set up a mobile, municipal team with enough staff to monitor cleanliness, perform cleaning operations and ensure that the appropriate regulations are being complied with, while at the same time ensuring that contractors are taking into account the needs of users and businesses when diverting vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle traffic?
The purpose of such a team would be to make regular visits to work sites throughout the city, to:
1. perform timely, real-time checks to ensure compliance with relevant work-site conditions, and also
2. maintain constant and proactive contact with users and businesses to document their concerns so that they can quickly respond to any issues, arrange cleaning operations or have sites and diversions adapted (notably pedestrian diversions) to minimise any problems resulting from the works.
The team should ensure they are clearly visible (e.g. by wearing a fluorescent jacket bearing the City of Luxembourg logo) so that passers-by are aware of their presence and can approach them in the street about any issues. More generally, such a team could also submit proposals on how to improve transport solutions – and particularly active travel – on the basis of their day-to-day observations.
It would be important for such a mobile works team to systematically document all requests and concerns, as well as all follow-up actions.
That way, the municipal departments would be able to reach out to and maintain permanent contact with residents, businesses and visitors and take an even more proactive role in preventing difficulties from arising.
Response provided by Simone Beissel and Lydie Polfer
Alderwoman Beissel pointed out that, following the resumption of work in the construction sector (20 April), construction businesses are currently struggling to deal with the sheer volume of work, especially as some of their employees are still absent.
With respect to shift work, the Service Coordination des chantiers – SERCO (Work Site Coordination Department) advises the college of aldermen on the most appropriate work-organisation system for each site, and the Labour Code (Code du travail) stipulates that no worker may work more than ten hours a day and 48 hours a week. As such, the following work-organisation systems are feasible:
- The use of several teams working in parallel at different sites, on the same shift (e.g. for major infrastructure work).
- Work using a single shift, usually working for 8 hours a day, between 7:00 and 16:00.
- Work using 1.5-shift system (i.e. where two shifts overlap, and usually between 7:00 and 19:00); this system is interesting in residential areas, since disruption arising from the works will have stopped by the time residents return home in the evening.
- Work using a two-shift system (from 7:00 to 22:00), where the time gain compared to the single-shift system is only 30–35% (owing to the more complex logistics for the company, and the fact that the municipal administration cannot adopt the same system.
- Saturday work (Saturday being a working day, though it is up to each business to decide whether, and to what extent, work will be done on a Saturday).
- Sunday work (for which, according to the Labour Code, a permit is not required, but the Inspection du Travail et des Mines (Inspectorate of Labour and Mines) must be informed).
- Overnight work (between 22:00 and 7:00). This system is rarely used (mainly to prevent disruption to traffic). A permit must be obtained from the Ministry of the Environment (Ministère de l’environnement), based on a noise study).
- Work on public holidays. This also requires a permit, which must obtained from the Inspectorate of Labour and Mines. Permits may be granted, for example, for works carried out in schools, or when the works are deemed urgent by the relevant commission.
Works using the two-shift system have been carried out, for example, on Rue Hollerich and Place de la Gare (City of Luxembourg projects), and on Place François-Joseph Dargent (Creos project). The City of Luxembourg only occasionally carries out weekend or overnight work, e.g. when infrastructure work needs to be done on a very busy road, or when a new road surface is laid.
During SERCO projects, works are supervised by a project coordinator, with the assistance of a health & safety officer for mobile work sites, and the Service Circulation (Traffic Department). The project coordinator is in permanent contact with local residents and businesses, and serves as a single point of contact for any questions and complaints. Residents and businesses may also reach out to the construction mediators. Thus, the municipal departments ensure that works are subject to effective oversight.
With respect to the proposal to set up a mobile works team, it should be pointed out that the Service Circulation monitors the permits it issues (for roadworks, and the relevant traffic regulations). The City also has a team of construction mediators, who are part of the Service Communication et relations publiques (Communication and Public Relations Department), and are very familiar with the workings of the municipal administration, meaning that they can forward complaints and information requests to the relevant people. They are also well placed for external communications.
As to the question regarding the organisation of work for the tram line, Luxtram makes use of all the aforementioned systems: single-shift, 1.5-shift, 2-shift, and sometimes overnight and weekend work. Luxtram alone decides which system is the most appropriate.
The Administration des Ponts et Chaussées (National Roads Administration) is in charge of road-development and infrastructure works carried out in the new Cloche d'Or district, which were mainly organised using the single-shift system.
Mayor and Chairwoman Lydie Polfer pointed out that the Comité politique (Political Committe) would be meeting the following day in the presence of the Minister for Public Works (Ministre des Travaux Publics) and representatives from Luxtram, and that the future pace of the works for the tram line would be on the agenda at that meeting. Indeed, everyone is eager for the works to progress as quickly as possible, but it must be borne in mind that due to the current crisis, businesses often do not have sufficient numbers of staff to carry on work at the normal pace. They must also comply with the maximum number of working hours stipulated by law.
The way in which public works are carried out may sometimes seem incomprehensible to passers-by, but there are good reasons for doing things in a certain way. For example, the infrastructure works between Place d'Armes and Rue Philippe II and Avenue Monterey had to be suspended because of the COVID-19 crisis, and the trenches had to be filled back in. When work resumed in the construction sector on 20 April, the works continued for a week, and then had to be halted once again because the new water pipes had not been subjected to an initial test, and it would be four days before a new test could be carried out. Hence, things may not always proceed as expected, but the municipal administration always undertakes to ensure that works are carried out as best they can, and with optimal communication.
Impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the municipal budget
Question posed by Elisabeth Margue
I put this question to you in the context of the current public-health situation relating to the spread of COVID-19, and the impact it is having on the City of Luxembourg's finances.
The economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis is quite considerable, and is likely to lead to a major economic crisis which could, in turn, impact the City of Luxembourg's planned budget.
The public-health crisis may already have had an impact on the City of Luxembourg's finances and its budgetary projections – firstly because of the burgeoning expenses (notably in connection with the safety measures that have had to be implemented, and the financial aid provided to local businesses), and secondly because of shrinking revenue (notably due to a drop in the amount of taxes being collected). As such, I would like to put the following questions to the college of the mayor and aldermen:
- What are the most significant expenditures that the City of Luxembourg has had to assume due to the COVID-19 crisis?
- What foreseeable impact will the crisis have on the City of Luxembourg's revenue?
- What will the overall impact of the public-health crisis be on budgetary projections?
Response provided by Laurent Mosar
Alderman Laurent Mosar replied that the latest figures from the Ministry of Finance (Ministère des Finances), which were presented to the Finance and Budget Commission (Commission des Finances et du Budget) of the Chamber of Deputies, were anything but encouraging. There appears to be a serious economic crisis on the way.
With respect to the measures taken by the City of Luxembourg due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Service Architecte-Maintenance (Architecture and Maintenance Department) has purchased masks, soap, alcohol-based solutions and materials to protect public reception counters, totalling €487,000, of which €240,000 were spent on masks (but €164,000 were billed to Syvicol, which, in turn, will bill the different municipalities to which some of the masks have been distributed): The City has purchased laptops at a cost of €85,000 in response to the new working-from-home arrangements. However, definitive figures are not yet available as regards works-related costs (the closure and reopening of sites; security-guard services for closed sites; new ways of organising work in compliance with social distancing rules; and hygiene products for workers).
Companies have already announced that they will be passing these costs on to the municipal authorities.
Amongst the measures taken to support businesses, €1.5 million have been set aside for the direct voucher purchase campaign. We cannot yet put a specific figure on the cost of direct financial aid for businesses because the exact conditions are yet to be determined, which will also depend on the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (Ministère de l'intérieur).
As regards the impact of the crisis on the future budget situation, on 8 May, the City of Luxembourg received a circular from the Ministry of Home Affairs detailing the loss of revenue to be expected for municipal authorities. According to this information, the municipalities' general endowment fund (Fonds de dotation globale des communes) will shrink by 17.4% compared to the 2020 budget projection, which means a loss of €92.7 million for the City of Luxembourg. The Ministry for Home Affairs predicts a 24.8% drop in revenue from taxes on commercial activities, corresponding to at least €18.1 million less. Ultimately, the revenue loss will likely be around €110.8 million in relation to the 2020 budget. It must be pointed out that the Ministry for Home Affairs is basing its projections on the most optimistic scenario received from the Ministry of Finance, so the losses could actually be greater still if a less favourable scenario comes to pass.
In relation to the measures taken by the college of aldermen, the waiving of 2.5-months' rent on commercial premises is expected to cost some €225,000, the waiving of the tax on terraces occupying the public thoroughfare (for the whole of 2020), €110,000, and the waiving of the tax for collecting waste from large containers outside shops, €330,000. As regards public car parks, which have been practically empty throughout the lockdown, the City has lost €2.5 million in revenue. In total, the loss of revenue is quite considerable.
As regards the overall impact of the health crisis on the budget projections, it is still difficult to provide an overall assessment. Unassigned revenue will fall considerably.
Details will only be available in early 2021, and it is not yet possible to put a figure on the additional costs for construction project. The City will also lose revenue due to the cancellation of certain major events. Ultimately, in terms of major projects, the college of aldermen intends to continue with high levels of investment, but certain projects will not be able to be completed as quickly as expected, which will also impact expenditure.
Question posed by Linda Gaasch
The Recycling Centre was closed during the initial phase of lockdown. It reopened on 20 April, but with reduced opening hours (10:00 to 16:00). These reduced opening hours, plus the public-health guidelines that need to observed, mean that there are long queues to get into the Recycling Centre. With this in mind, I would like to put the following urgent questions to the college of aldermen:
- What are the peak and trough times at the Recycling Centre?
- Might there be the possibility of indicating current waiting times and peak and trough times on the website or other media?
- When does the college of aldermen expect to be able to return to normal, pre-crisis opening hours (7:00–19:30, instead of 10:00–16:00)?
Response provided by Patrick Goldschmidt
Alderman Goldschmidt replied that, in principle, pedestrians and cyclists are allowed to enter the Recycling Centre. It is possible that in certain cases, someone queuing in their car may have got out to drop off their waste on foot, and was refused entry and asked to go back to their car and wait their turn.
Closing the Recycling Centre was one of the measures introduced due to the COVID-19 crisis. A number of staff from the Service Hygiène (Sanitation Department) have had to stay at home because they belong to one of the vulnerable groups, or to care for their children, meaning that waste collections have had to be organised with reduced staffing levels. In view of the lockdown, it would not have made sense to maintain the Recycling Centre's normal opening hours.
Since reopening, the Recycling Centre has been operating initially for 30 hours a week (Monday to Friday), and is now open on Saturdays as well. In addition, owing to the additional safety measures in place, fewer people than normal are currently allowed in the Recycling Centre at any one time.
At the same time, demand is extremely high at present. The centre is designed to handle only 288 users per day, but currently, is catering for between 300 and 450 visitor each day. The Recycling Centre is extremely busy on a near constant basis, so there is no possibility of informing the public of times when there are likely to be fewer people. Current waiting times are between 20 and 40 minutes.
The alderman recommends that residents order bins or paper and glass, given that the municipal administration collects these recyclable materials from the curbside on a weekly basis. Collections of green waste have also resumed, and the authorities are doing their utmost to provide citizens with the best possible service with the resources at their disposal.
Question posed by Claudine Konsbruck
The situation with Airbnb is frequently part of our discussions on the municipal council. The problems that come with the platform's widespread success are well known:
- The complete lack of a legal framework: no taxation, no hygiene and safety criteria, no inspections, etc.
- Extra pressure on the rental market: properties listed on Airbnb are not available for a conventional rental, thus exacerbating the shortage of accommodation in the city.
Members would recall the stipulations of article 18 of the law of 17 July 1960 institutionalising the hospitality industry (loi du 17 juillet 1960 portant institution du statut de l'hôtellerie), which states that any private individual who regularly offers paying accommodation to travellers must register with the municipal authorities. It is clear that this article is not being observed at present. I would therefore like to put the following questions to the college of aldermen:
- Have the municipal authorities entered into discussions with Airbnb, and if so, what has been the outcome of these discussions?
- Other cities in other countries have managed to reach agreements with the rental platform. What are the college of aldermen's intentions?
- Does the municipal administration know the exact number of short-stay Airbnb properties in the city?
- Is the City aware of the findings of the study commissioned by the Government in March 2018 to assess the situation?
Response provided by Serge Wilmes
Alderman Wilmes said that the municipal administration had not seen the results of that assessment, and that on 20 February 2020, he had had a very constructive meeting with an Airbnb representative.
The majority of Airbnb properties on offer in Luxembourg are located in the capital. Airbnb has figures on long-term and short-term stays, and on those places where Luxembourg residents themselves use Airbnb services. The Airbnb representative promised to send detailed figures to the municipal administration, but has not yet done so. The representative also agreed that customers should pay Airbnb an occupancy tax (taxe de séjour), to be forwarded to the City of Luxembourg.
As regards the legal framework, this falls within the Government's purview. Finally, the college of aldermen will conduct further discussions with Airbnb about the occupancy tax, and will present the aforementioned figures to the municipal council.