During the last four years there 531 serious occupational injuries were reported, while 150 workers suffered fatal consequences.
Even with the changes introduced by the new labor code, labor safety and health issues are and have been paralyzed. According to the Labor Law of Georgia: “the employer is obligated to provide the employee with a of safe and healthy work environment”, however, according to the Public Defender’s annual report for 2013, this norm is only declared, lacking any kind of an enforcement mechanism which could establish fining procedures or regulatory rules for the employers. The report also states that no labor, health or workplace policies on monitoring exist on the national level.
During the last 4 years 531 injuries and 150 fatalities were reported. Yearly statistics are as follows: 2010- 102 injuries, 42 fatalities; 2011- 137 injuries, 54 fatalities; 2012 – 131 injuries, 21 fatalities; 2013 – 161 injuries, 33 fatalities.
The governing bodies announced that it is planning to formulate a proper strategy which will help improve labor safety in the nearest future.
The Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs department director; Paata Jorjoliani stated that the ministry has received a grant from Washington DC’s Department of Labor and the tender on establishing labor safety inspection was won by ILO.
“There is no argument that there must be a governmental agency in charge of labor safety and health responsible for monitoring workplaces. Every European country has an agency like this. Our department has prepared a legal project that will be distributed to the other ministries. I think that this legal project will be deliberated upon in parliament in a session scheduled for autumn. Currently, we haven’t established our position on the powers that are to be granted to the inspection agency and the mechanism for monitoring.” – stated Paata Jorjoliani.
Government’s advisor on social issues, Bekha Nacvishvili, spoke on the necessities of creating a safety inspection organization.
“The new administration has taken important steps in improving the labor code. These steps improved the situation regarding labor rights; however, just the legal changes are not enough to move forward. We keep finding more and more labor rights violations. Labor rights are being violated both in terms of labor relations (overtime work, work days, etc) and labor safety, health, hygiene and others.
If we were to possess a system of economy based on high-tech and highly qualified knowledge, then this problem wouldn’t be as painful since the employers in such economies realize that they must provide a safe work environment for the employee. Regrettably, we have a low-qualified system of economy and the demand for a highly qualified worker is very low. The majority of the industries existing in the nation are busy with extraction of natural resources, thus employee work conditions are highly risky. That’s why its necessary to create institutions that will protect workers rights … thus it would be proper to create labor safety inspection organization at this point in time. The government is discussing on proper ways to create such an institution and examining different models. I am in favor of a strong and powerful labor inspection organ which can inspect the situation at the workplaces as well as provide monitoring services.
In order to create a proper organization for labor safety inspection and monitoring, we must go through different stages. I hope that in around 2 years we will have a well formulated department that will be in charge of labor oversight for all of Georgia. At this time we have not come to a decision on the mechanisms and enforcement powers that the labor safety inspection will have.”- states Beqa Nacvlishvili
The Georgian Trade Unions Confederation’s Vice-President, Gocha Aleksandria believes that labor inspection must possess a minimum of two functions. Labor safety and oversight and labor law implementation monitoring.
“An all encompassing labor market is a machine that holds all attributes and is controlled by the society. The word society includes government, employers and people who represent the workers, trade unions. Labor safety inspection is one of the most important aspects of this system, but it doesn’t even exist in Georgia.
Labor safety inspection is supposed to be responsible for oversight on labor safety at a workplace and monitoring of labor law implementation. It must be granted functions and be given a mechanism to impose sanctions on those who violate the law. We agree that we should pick out the best safety inspection model of Europe, but this must be an organization that will be granted the power to perform the functions holds in Europe, not a misshapen attempt that lacks authority to do anything about violations. We will endorse creating an institution without power for the sake of saying that it exists.”- Says Gocha Aleksandria. According to him the consultation process currently taking place in the higher echelons of government is not going in the right direction. “It is possible that we may leave the discussions if the Ministry of Economy remains irresponsible by speculating and saying: well, let’s give the labor inspection agency the power to monitor for now, and if it is to monitor labor safety, then lets not give them the power to impose sanctions”- noted Gocha Aleksandria.
Expert in economy, Irakli Lekvinadze believes that it would be unjust to create a labor safety inspection organization. He thinks that labor safety inspection is an unnecessary structure overall and will create extra problems for businesses.
“I am sure that labor safety inspection will become yet another problem maker for businesses rather than a problem solver. Employers and employees are supposed to solve their safety disputes internally and labor safety inspection should be intervening in this process. This will be yet another regulatory body and will create more problems for businesses. Workers can use trade unions as labor rights defense organism if they have labor disputes; therefore a creation of a new regulatory organization is not necessary”. –says Lekvinadze