Unions claim that government has failed to fulfil occupational risk commitments

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At a time when industrial accidents are an increasingly important problem in Spain, in June 1999 the CC.OO and UGT trade union confederations claimed that the government is failing to fulfil its commitments on the prevention of occupational risks.

Spain is the EU country with the greatest number of industrial accidents (ES9904215F). The number of fatal accidents - three to four deaths due to industrial accidents per day - is double the European average. Rather than falling, the number of industrial accidents is on the rise: in 1998 there was a 12.4% increase over the previous year and in the first half of 1999 the number of industrial accidents was 16.3% higher than in the same period of 1998 - the greatest increase this decade. Over half the workers who suffered an industrial accident in 1998 were on temporary contracts, according to data from the Ministry of Labour.

The trade unions consider that the main reason for the high industrial accident rate is the lack of job security, followed by other factors such as a failure to fulfil the 1995 Law on Prevention of Occupational Risks (ES9708216F) and the lack of training in safety (ES9806157F).

Due to the gravity of the problem, in November 1998 a summit meeting on industrial accidents was called by the Ministry of Labour. The objective was to draw up an emergency plan to combat the increase in industrial accidents in Spain. In June 1999, the trade union representatives on the "action plan on industrial accidents" resulting from this summit - Joaquín Nieto of CC.OO and Dolors Hernández of UGT- claimed that the government had still made no progress in carrying out the immediate measures agreed with the social partners in this plan.

According to the unions, the government has failed to fulfil several commitments: whereas the action plan involved a drive to increase awareness, so far this year there have been fewer campaigns and less funding than in 1998; and the "national plan for training in prevention of occupational risks" (which would help to remedy the lack of safety awareness), which the summit agreed to prepare during the first half of 1999, has not yet been drawn up.

The trade unions also claim that after a framework agreement signed by the Ministry of Labour and the mutual insurance societies - assigning to the mutual societies ESP 35 billion from the funds collected by the contribution for accident prevention - the mutual societies have not used all the funds received for accident prevention. The unions feel that action must be taken to monitor the performance of the mutual societies and to use the resources in those companies with the highest accident rates.

The trade unions also state that the government has further failed to fulfil commitments reached on inspections and sanctions against companies for failure to fulfil the Law on Prevention of Occupational Risks.

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