Business damage caused by the pandemic has led the largest contractor in the Netherlands, Royal BAM Group N.V., to cut costs by $117 million-a-year, mainly by reducing its staff of about 19,500 across Europe.

“We are taking decisive action to structurally improve our profitability,” said Ruud Joosten, who took over as CEO Sept. 1.

COVID-19 accounted for most of the firm'’s 10% sales drop in the first half of 2020 to $3.6 billion. Site operating efficiency dipped to 60% during the pandemic's first peak, rising later to a more stable 90%.

Joosten said the “painful decision for employees concerned” is also needed while “we are defining our new strategic agenda in order to create more value for our shareholders and solid prospects for all stakeholders, including our employees.”

The company hopes to start restructuring in the next six months following negotiations with trade unions and works councils. Meanwhile, “we cannot provide numbers. It’s a group wide reduction … including in our head office in the Netherlands,” says a spokesman.

Royal BAM employs about 8,000 staff in the Netherlands, 5,500 in the U.K. and some 6,000 in Germany, Belgium, the Irish Republic and other global locations.