Irakli Petriashvili addresses Mamuka Bakhtadze in an open letter
24 / 10 / 2018
Dear Prime Minister,
We would like to communicate our position concerning consideration of a bill envisaging amendments and additions to the Georgian Law on Labor Safety in the Parliament of Georgia and the challenges of our country related to the issue.
As we have already stated time and again, we appreciate the fact that the bill initiated in the Parliament considers the two principal issues demanded by Trade Unions for years, namely: for the law to apply to all sectors of economy, as well as public sector and to allow access of labor inspection to workplaces without court order, which is a requirement of the ILO Labor Inspection Convention No 82, Occupational Safety and Health Convention No. 155 and OSH Framework Directive 89/391/EEC specified in the Appendix of the EU/Georgia Association Agreement.
However, these regulations are planned to come into force only from September 2019, when there is no actual justification to why it should not be enacted simultaneously with the adoption of the law by the parliament.
In addition, the proposed amendments do not provide for the labor inspection’s mandate to apply to labor rights, which contradicts the standards of the ILO, as well as the European Union that do not distinguish labor safety from labor rights. In addition, the practice of Trade Unions clearly demonstrates that industrial accidents are often caused by violation of labor rights and the separation of the two is naturally impossible.
The bill does not consider institutional strengthening of labor inspection and its establishment as an independent legal entity, as well as the change of the status of labor inspectors to civil servants, which is also an imperative requirement of the No 81 Convention of the ILO.
It is noteworthy that the bill was openly considered by the working group created in the Parliament of Georgia with the maximum involvement of stakeholders. However, the process of reviewing the bill in parliamentary committees has been delayed by the efforts of the Business Ombudsman, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, and a number of business associations and non-governmental organizations affiliated to them, and an actual adoption of the law has been under question. This means refusal of the government to provide a safe working environment for employees and escape from the fulfillment of a number of international obligations.
In addition, there are challenges related to the implementation of certain provisions of the Law on Labor Safety. In particular, there is no awareness raising campaign on the novelties prescribed under the new law, according to which, from January 1, 2019, the employer is obliged to provide employee with an accident insurance and hire an occupational safety specialist. The accredited program for occupational safety specialists has not been approved yet. We believe that given circumstances will impede the implementation of these regulations within the established deadlines in the future, as this has been the case for registration of hard, harmful and hazardous jobs.
In our opinion, not paying due attention to the labor related issues will lead to escalation of the situation in different areas of employment.
It is especially noteworthy that the fate of employees in the Tkibuli mines remains unclear, whereby the has only employer promised the reimbursement of compulsory leave for employees, including October month.
Besides, a plan of complete modernization of the Tkibuli mines and the socio-economic development of the city has not been developed as of today. The initiatives of the Trade Unions regarding proper functioning of the city and welfare of the miners, such as unemployment compensation, employment at social/infrastructural projects, flawless provision of public amenities to the city, accident insurance for miners and their families, application of the Law on State Pensions and Compensations to mine workers similar to the members of parliament, judges, law enforcement officers and fire fighters, so that they are being given decent retirement opportunity before reaching the retirement age etc. have not been considered.
Dear Prime Minister
We hope for you, as a Chairman of the Social Partnership Tripartite Commission, will take maximum effort to strengthen the social dialogue to address the above-mentioned problematic issues in a timely manner and to ensure rapid adoption of the amendments and additions to the Law on Labor Safety. This represents a step forward to establishing decent labor standards in the country and institutionalization of appropriate enforcement mechanisms.