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Georgian trade unions criticize new labour safety law

Most of the provisions of the new law on occupational safety came into force on 17 March after the document was signed by President of Georgia. Provisions concerning compulsory insurance of employees against accidents will come into force from 1 January 2019.

In February, about 2,000 workers staged protest actions in different regions of Georgia, including in front of the Parliament in Tbilisi, to demand better health and safety at work.

Tamaz Dolaberidze, president of IndustriALL affiliate the Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers of Georgia, believes the law should cover all enterprises. Currently, it is written in a way that benefits businesses and only applies to highly hazardous facilities.

The law defines eleven types of hazardous and dangerous jobs with fines varying from 100 to 50,000 GEL (US$40 to US$20,000) in case of violation of safety standards. Trade unions believe the fines are low and will not encourage the employer to improve occupational safety.

Also, labour inspectors will only carry out scheduled inspections once a year. They will produce a list of audited enterprises at the beginning of each year. Thus, an enterprise with critical violations will be able to continue operating until it gets into this list.

Amiran Zenaishvili, president of the Georgian Trade Union of Energy Workers, says:

“Health and safety issues won’t be resolved if there is no possibility of free access for inspectors to visit enterprises and identify violations and problems at the workplace. Now inspectors need to undergo a procedure of coordination with employers, which prevents them from unannounced visits to the facility”. 

The Georgian parliament began consideration of the bill in June 2017 after the tragedy at the Tkibuli Elizbar Mindeli mine, which led to the death of four miners. According to the statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 359 workers died and another 947 were injured in the last 11 years in Georgia. Most recently, on 12 March at Zestafoni Ferroalloy Plant 55-year-old Davit Dzabiradze fell down from the roof height of 40 meters and died on the spot.

Kemal Ozkan, IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary, comments,

“IndustriALL Global Union supports Georgian trade unions in their demands to adopt truly effective labour inspection legislation in accordance with international labour standards. It is essential for workers that the government of Georgia ratifies ILO Convention 176 on Safety and Health in Mines, as well as ILO Convention 81 on Labour Inspection”.

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