NGOs Address EU Commissioners Regarding Labor Safety Law in Georgia

A number of Georgian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have sent an open letter to the European Commissioners, to share their concerns regarding the discussions on the Labor Safety draft law ongoing in Georgian Parliament.

The letter addresses three EU commissioners: Johannes Hahn, Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (NEAR); Marianne Thyssen, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (EMPL); and Cecilia Malmström, Directorate-General for Trade.

The NGOs reminds them that labor safety is one of the most significant issues of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement and the association agenda, adding that relevant institutions of the EU are well aware of the weak labor policy in Georgia, which results in “unstable, low-paid and unprotected work” carried out by employees in degrading working conditions.

The letter also reads that at workplaces where the risk of worker injury and death is especially high, fatal industrial accidents happen weekly.

“As a result, 1,046 people died or were injured in the workplace from 2011-2016 in Georgia. This number is increasing every year,” the NGOs stressed, adding that despite certain positive provisions, the draft law initiated by the government is “weak” in terms of its enforcement and “does not provide sufficient mechanisms” which would convince outsiders of the will of the government to effectively protect employees in the workplace.

“The draft law has been worked on for eight months in the legislative body, and the government position regarding the review of the draft is still unknown, substantially influenced by the economic team of the government,” the letter reads.

The civil sector underlined that, according to the proposed version of the draft law, it applies only to “work under excessively risk of harsh and harmful conditions” and adds that this narrows the scope of the law. Furthermore, the draft law does not apply to every workplace, which, according to the NGOs, “constitutes unjustified limitation and rests on an incorrect interpretation of the internationally recognized labor standards.”

The letter also stresses that the draft law foresees the unconditional access of the labor safety supervisory body to the workplace only as an exception, adding a Labor Inspector will need a court order to carry out monitoring, for which additional time would be needed, so “decreasing the chance of an immediate and effective response by the supervisory body.”

The NGOs also claim that the minimal fines as a sanction determined by the draft law, which are not in line with the draft law aim - to make employers rectify the infringements instead of paying fines.

“We hope that the relevant units of the EU will be in close coordination with the government and the Parliament of Georgia in order ensure the adoption of the law responds to the existing challenges as well as the conditions of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement,” the letter says.

The statistics of workplace injuries and deaths occurring in Georgia 2011-2016 is as follows:

2011 – 54 people died and 137 were injured

2012 – 48 deaths and 289 injuries

2013 – 23 died and 11 workers were injured

2014 – 45 deaths, injuries - 75

2015 – 42 people died and 82 were injured

2016 – 58 died and 85 got injuried.

According to the Georgian Trade Union, 40 workers died in workplaces in 2017. Three workers have died since January 1, 2018 on construction sites in Tbilisi.

Thea Morrison

15 February 2018 18:25