Negotiations begin over cutting industrial accident rate

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In October 2002, Spanish trade unions met the Minister of Labour to start a process aimed at reaching an agreement between unions, employers and the government on reducing the high rate of industrial accidents. The meeting came after a year with a large number of industrial accidents, particularly fatal ones.

In mid-October 2002, representatives of the General Workers’ Confederation (Unión General de Trabajadores, UGT) and the Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (Comisiones Obreras, CC.OO) met the Minister of Labour at the 'industrial accident bargaining table' (Mesa de Siniestralidad Laboral). This was the first meeting of this type after a year with a high industrial accident rate and a very high number of fatal accidents (ES0209201N), above all in the construction sector and in the summer and autumn (ES0210202F).

The October meeting was the first of a series of bargaining meetings with the trade unions and the employers, aimed at reaching an agreement to reduce the number of industrial accidents. This deal should come into force at the beginning of 2003, and be ratified by the National Commission for Health and Safety at Work (Comisión Nacional de Salud y Seguridad en el Trabajo, CNSST). The Ministry of Labour has agreed with the trade unions to create several working groups in the next few months in order to achieve this aim.

At this first meeting, some of the issues to be dealt with at later meetings were agreed, including: better information on industrial accidents and their causes; continuation of the 'shock plans' aimed at companies with high accident rates; specific actions aimed at the most important companies and their subcontractors; reform of the regulations on subcontracting; greater coordination between all authorities involved; and an increase in the material and human resources of the Labour Inspectorate (Inspección de Trabajo).

One of the main points agreed at the the meeting was that the measures against industrial accidents must involve specific actions for the construction sector, its main companies and their subcontractors. One of the issues to be negotiated is the coordination of health and safety in all the companies operating in the same workplace, a measure that is particularly important for this sector. The reform of the regulations on subcontracting is also important for this sector, because chains of subcontracting in construction companies are one of the main factors involved in the sector's high proportion of unstable employment and high number of industrial accidents.

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