Trade unions do not want to abandon their right to OHS supervision

Labour legislation allows the trade unions to exercise supervision over occupational safety and health at the employers. At present a discussion is taking place about the increase of efficiency of labour inspection that supervises this field as well. In this context, it has been proposed that the activities of trade unions in this field should be abolished. However, the trade unions do not want to abandon their right for social supervision over occupational safety and health. According to the information available their objections have been accepted and the prepared amendments of the laws on labour supervision would not threaten these rights of trade unions.

Participation of the trade unions in the supervision over occupational safety and health (OSH) has around 80 years tradition in Slovakia - it dates back to the first Czechoslovak Republic. According to the provisions of the Labour Code and the Act on OSH trade unions in Slovakia actively participate in social supervision over OSH. During supervision the trade unions act independently of the labour inspection bodies and health protection bodies. The main purpose of the trade union supervision over OSH at the employers is prevention. This is provided for by individual trade unions in economic sectors and branches through their specialists on labour protection - inspectors of occupational safety. Local trade union organizations nominee also employee representatives for OSH to the company OSH committees. The trade union inspectors of occupational safety can propose measures for removal of observed shortcomings to the employers. However, since the amendment of the Labour Code in 2003 they do not have the right to give the employer a binding instruction for suspension of work in a case of observation of serious shortcomings in OSH.

Following the report of the Confederation of Trade Unions (Konfederácia odborových zväzov Slovenskej republiky, KOZ SR) in 2004, the trade unions have carried out 1,359 checks in OSH using their 32 specialists, during which they have observed 7,933 shortcomings, which were recorded in protocols. More than 41% of these cases were due to technical shortcomings, which in the opinion of the trade unionists result from the lack of resources of the employers for the maintenance and renovation of machinery, technologies and buildings. Shortcomings in working environment, working conditions and administrative shortcomings were the next ones in the ranking. The trade union inspectors also participated in investigation of more than 50 cases of serious occupational accidents and almost 150 cases of occupational diseases. According to their findings the number of occurrence of such cases has not changed in comparison with previous years, however, they have noticed more cases, when employers have not notified about the serious occupational accidents in time. Occurrence of occupational accidents (SK0501102F) is also covered in the findings of the Statistical Office (Štatistický úrad Slovenskej republiky, ŠÚ SR). According to the findings of trade unions also the number of cases is being increased, when employers require from some of their employees to work not as employee anymore but as self-employer - external subcontractor. In these cases the responsibility for OSH is transferred from the employer to the self-employed person.

Apart from the supervisory activities the trade union inspectors of OSH also provide consultancy and carry out trainig activities in this field. Following the report of KOZ SR these activities amounted to almost 50% of their activities. According to the information available these services of trade unions are used not only by employees, but by employers and OSH specialists as well. The trade union inspectors participate also in discussions with state administration bodies in the field of OSH and with employers’ organizations and also in discussions about sectoral collective bargaining. These activities amounted to almost 35% of their agenda. On the basis of the results of the checks the trade union inspectors have also put forward a proposal of their agenda for the next period.

With the aim of creating a legislative background for improvement of organization of the state administration in the field of labour inspection and for increase of efficiency of the exercise of labour inspection at the employers, the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (Ministerstvo práce sociálnych vecí a rodiny Slovenskej republiky, MPSVR SR) has proposed several changes in the respective labour legislation. These changes were, apart from other things, aimed at the unification of the exercise of supervision over OSH in Slovakia by the National Labour Inspectorate (Národný inšpektorát práce, NIP). With respect to this MPSVR SR proposed that the exercise of supervision over OSH at the employers should not be of statutory concern of the trade unions as employees’ representatives anymore. On the basis of this intention the respective provisions of the Labour Code (and consequently also the provisions of the Act on OSH), which specify the agenda of the trade unions in the filed of OSH, should be abolished. The implementation of these changes could simultaneously entail a financial benefit for the state budget, as the agenda of the trade union inspectors (some of them working full-time, some part-time) is covered from the state budget.

The trade unions associated in the KOZ SR have rejected this proposal. In their Standpoint towards the legislative changes proposed for the field of labour inspection and OSH they expressed their fundamental disapproval and classified the proposed changes as elimination of the basic rights of employees guaranteed by the Slovak Constitution. KOZ SR sent its standpoint within the procedure of the draft law commenting to MPSVR SR.

While evaluating the standpoints and objections of the relevant organizations within the draft law commenting, the MPSVR SR also assessed the critical standpoint of the trade unionists. According to the information available, MPSVR SR accepted the standpoint of the trade unionists and omitted the intention to abolish the supervisory competencies of the trade unions in the field of OSH from the proposed legislative changes. Thus it is realistic to assume that even after the newest changes in the field of labour inspection and OSH have come into force (planned since 1 January 2006) the right of the trade unions to exercise their activities in the field of OSH inspection will remain preserved.

This information is made available through the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO), as a service to users of the EIROnline database. EIRO is a project of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. However, this information has been neither edited nor approved by the Foundation, which means that it is not responsible for its content and accuracy. This is the responsibility of the EIRO national centre that originated/provided the information. For details see the "About this record" information in this record.

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