The impact of the information and consultation directive on industrial relations — Hungary

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 02 April 2008



About
Country:
Hungary
Author:
Kroly Gyrgy
Institution:

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

In Hungary social dialogue for better working conditions and safe work is in development. According to social partners, national level dialogue related to occupational health and safety (OHS) and its structure function well. In the majority of sectors, however, OHS related dialogue does not exist. Workplace level OHS dialogue shows a colourful picture. In large organisations OHS is at a better standard and there is a more widespread practice of corresponding social dialogue, although at a great number of workplaces no safety representatives are elected, or instead of consultation, employers reduce their duties to providing information. At the SME sector the situation is less favourable due to the non-existence of safety representatives. Social partners hold that studies are needed to explore the impact of social dialogue on labour safety and health as related research is lacking. In the light of “modern understanding of labour protection” there is very little reliable data for the assessment of actual working conditions. Beside traditionally available statistics, and the goals set by the Hungarian National Programme of Occupational Health and Safety, there is a need to scientifically measure the developments and there seems to be a need to develop new methods in this respect.

A. Mapping of existing research and administrative reports

Surveys

Present a summary of the survey(s), its findings and methodology, including any caveats about the research

Present, where relevant, the exact wording of the questions that address the relationship between working conditions and social dialogue

Is there a predominance of cases or more information available in certain sectors? Are any particular issues emerging? Has any monitoring or evaluation been carried out?

There are considerable insufficiencies with respect to research on social dialogue on labour safety and health and there is very little reliable data for the assessment of actual working conditions. Data and information on the topic are drawn from available documents and reports.

1.1. Survey annexed to National Action Plan (NAP) for Employment (2004)

Hungary, as a new Member State of the EU, presented the Action Plan for the first time in 2004. The 2004 NAP describes the employment strategy of the Hungarian Government for the period between 2004 and 2006, and it presents an assessment of the situation and a summary of measures to each Guideline.

The draft NAP was also consulted with a number partners including, among others, the social partners. The primary forum of consultation with the social partners was the National Interest Reconciliation Council (Országos Érdekegyeztető Tanács, OÉT). As part of the partnership consultation, the Government requested the social partners to comment on all the issues that concern their responsibilities and interests, with special regard to the following: management of and adaptation to change; ensuring an appropriate balance between the security and flexibility of employment; investing in human capital; gender equality; active ageing; and safety and health at work. At the local level, the draft was discussed by the county labour councils (tripartite bodies involving the representatives of local governments and the local representatives of the social partners). (HU0306103F)

Partnership consultation and contributions presented by the social partners

How can flexibility and security of employment be combined in a balanced way? How can employment become more flexible without significantly reducing the security of workers? What are the ways of fostering flexibility?

According to the representatives of employees, it is hard to balance flexibility and security, nevertheless they fully acknowledge the importance of flexibility for the competitiveness of the economy. The security of employment could be enhanced, among others, by the following measures: dismissal protection 5 years prior to retirement (except for cases of insolvency); raising the dismissal protection period of those returning to work from leave (child care, sick leave etc.) to 90 days; providing regular allowance to redundant workers for a certain period of time instead of redundancy payments; providing free re-training or access to information on training opportunities in case of insolvency. Moreover, the more widespread use of collective agreements or the extension of the existing ones would also enhance security while benefiting employers as well.

The representatives of employers emphasised the role of the legislation and the economic environment in increasing flexibility, in other words, legislation should allow for more flexibility and economic conditions should be favourable. In their view, the security of employment is enhanced by a stable economic growth and predictable and stable tax and social security regimes. To this end, they suggest to set the framework for the development of tax and social security systems for the upcoming 3-5 years. Furthermore they call for a comprehensive review and reform of the labour-related contributions both paid by employers and employees. The different types of contracts should be approximated in terms of regulation, tax and social security contributions, and administrative burdens. The new Labour Code should define framework rules taking into account sectoral characteristics, and then the detailed rules should be laid down by the collective agreements. It is also important to expand the boundaries of part-time work, while creating adequate legal guarantees for part-time workers.

How can investment in human capital be increased? What are the roles of the employers, employees and the Government in enhancing life-long learning of workers?

According to employee organisations, the Government should create the legal and financial conditions for life-long learning and ensure necessary support for it and thus make it attractive. Adequate legislation should be in place to ensure that only accredited institutions provide training, but these institutions should receive support. The prestige of vocational training should be restored and its structure modernised. Better use could be made of the experience of trade unions when planning vocational training, and bipartite vocational training centres could be set up. Vocational training should respond to the needs of the labour market. Both employees and employers should be encouraged to participate in lifelong learning.

Employers’ representatives emphasise that the development of human capital is a common interest, in which both employers and employees, as well as the Government, have responsibilities. According to them more attention should be given to distance-learning and it has to be made sure that businesses have access to programmes supporting distance learning. To increase the efficiency of training, there should be a closer link between adult training centres and vocational training schools. Some suggest the introduction of the concept of job-retention training which would be organised by the employer and would be compulsory for the employee.

Promoting the development of human capital and life-long learning

This guideline is of outstanding importance because only a well-educated and skilled workforce can create a knowledge-based society, improve productivity and boost job creation. Education and training from vocational schools to universities should be in line with, and respond to, the needs and structure of the economy. Trade unions certainly see a role for themselves in contributing to these objectives. Finally, vocational training should be modernised and expanded.

According to the representatives of employers, education policy should be brought in line with the real needs of the economy. This could be facilitated by regular sectoral reports on labour supply and assessment of training/education. Priority should be given to adult training and re-training, furthermore the system of vocational and adult training should be modernised. It would be important to support also the basic skills development of workers in order to facilitate participation in life-long learning. However, besides these major structural reforms, some short-term measures are needed as well. They acknowledge the importance of the role of employers in training. Employer organisations do not consider necessary and adequate to increase the number of university students.

In this section we wanted you to report about existing surveys reporting about the eventual link between social dialogue and working conditions. Please answer to the questions put forward.

2. Qualitative research

Present a summary of the research, its findings and methodology, including any caveats about the research

Is there a predominance of cases or more information available in certain sectors? Are any particular issues emerging? Has any monitoring or evaluation been carried out?

2.1. Health and safety

Overview of workplace health situation

Source: National Public Health and Medical Officer Service (Állami Népegészségügyi és Tisztiorvosi Szolgálat, ÁNTSZ), which is responsible for the direction, coordination and supervision of public health, epidemiology, health development, healthcare operation activities and the supervision of healthcare provision.

The examination has been part of the annual reporting to the Government on the situation of public health. Accordingly the survey did not attempt to focus on the situation at workplace; however it contains findings relevant to this area. The collection of data is based on reporting: as the report conclude: this method does not allow for full and complete registering of cases – there is a conflict of interest on the side of the responsible for notice.

Outstanding areas of the 2005 examinations were the dust exposition and the chemical substances and carcinogens related health hazards. The findings state that 95,3% of workpalces have risk assessment, however these are often formal.

Examinations took place in 2005. They involved altogether 39960 cases, of which there were 11231 air tests, 1289 examinations of dust at workplace, 23439 examination of metabolit, 3890 examinations of noise, 82 cases of hand/arm vibration, 29 cases of full body vibration.

Occupational health

In 2005 the largest number of cases of occupational disease was recorded in manufacturing (47% of the total, that is 220 cases), followed by reported cases in mining (24%, 112 cases), then in the health and social services sector (16%, 77 cases).

As regards sectors altogether (mining, manufacturing, electricity and water supply), 345 cases of occupational disease (73 % of all declared cases) were reported. The majority of reported cases in mining was related to respiratory diseases, and the reported cases (77 persons) in the health and social service sector were due to biological agents (41 persons, 53%), hepatitis (17 persons, 22%) and tuberculosis (6 cases, 8%).

It has to be mentioned though that in reality there must be more cases of work-related diseases, but as the declaration of such cases is against the interest of employers, they often remain unreported.

During the period under review in depth research on the subjects under review did not take place.

3. Administrative reports

Do reports from Labour Inspectorate / Health and Safety Authorities exist where the absence of dialogue between the two sides of industry on OHS matters is mentioned? (present the findings briefly)

Is there predominance in a certain sector?

When so, mention the five most quoted sectors.

The role of Labour Inspectorate in an advice / information role to get the social dialogue going whether establishment-specific or not.

Is the gender aspect taken up in OHS, is it taken up in the OHS social dialogue, who puts it on the agenda and what is its outcome, if any?

3.1. National Report on Strategies for Social Protection and Social Inclusion, 2006-2008

The report was prepared under the joint coordination of the ministry of Social Affairs and Labour (Szociális és Munkaügyi Minisztérium, SZMM) and the Ministry of Health (Egészségügyi Minisztérium, EÜM), with the involvement of the relevant ministries and organisations. The Committee Against Social Exclusion (CASE) (Társadalmi Kirekesztés Elleni Bizottságot, TKEB), active since the beginning of 2004, was the coordinating body in charge of making the preparations for the report. The elaboration of the programmes and measures aiming to implement the new Hungarian government’s comprehensive package of reforms began in parallel with the preparation of this Report, therefore we are not in a position to discuss those now in detail.

There are three objectives in the focus of the Hungarian Government’s comprehensive reform strategy:

  • restoring macro-economic balance,
  • implementing a reform process encompassing the entire operation of the state,
  • elaborating and implementing a comprehensive development policy.

The social partners agreed with the objectives and principles of the strategy, although they did not intend to discuss it at OÉT, as they claimed certain details and specific measures were missing in specific strategic areas. However, the report cannot include these reform measures, because their elaboration is still under process.

3.2. Information report for the government on the health and safety situation, 2005,Minister of Social Affairs and Labour, edited in July 2006

Concerning the system of health and safety representatives at workplaces no major changes were noted in the report. According to the regional inspectors` experiences safety representatives operate basically only in bigger companies and primarily where trade unions operate as well. Health and safety representatives, where they do exist, are not eager to take action against the employer. In the reports safety representatives expressed only the same opinion as employers.

3.3. Report to the Government on the labour safety situation in the Hungarian national economy, June 2007

The report was prepared by the Minister of Social Affairs and Labour, in cooperation with the Minister of Health, based on the information provided by the responsible authorities of OHS, according to the 1993/XCIII law on labour protection. As stipulated by that law, the report considers in a comprehensive way the implementation of safety and health requirements, their circumstances, qualitative and quantitative aspects. The review contains the reports of the Hungarian Labour Inspectorate (Országos Munkavédelmi és Munkaügyi Főfelügyelőség, OMMF), the Hungarian Office for Mining and Geology (Magyar Bányászati és Földtani Hivatal, MBFH) and the National Public Health and Medical Officer Service (Állami Népegészségügyi és Tisztiorvosi Szolgálat, ÁNTSZ).

The report describes the developments regarding working conditions, the situation of OHS in different branches, sectors, and the experiences of inspections carried out by the authorities. The number of reported work-related accidents in 2006 dropped by 5,4%, the number of fatal accidents dropped by 1.6%, over the previous year. over the previous year.

Work-related accidents by region
Region Work-related accidents
Total Compared to previous year Types of work-related accidents
2004 2005 % Fatal accidents Severe mutilation Other severe injury Severe cases altogether Cases of mutilation altogether
Budapest (capital) 4,425 4,417 99.8 12 4 2 18 29
Baranya 841 876 104.2 3 2 3 8 9
Bács-Kiskun 1,066 1,061 99.5 9 3 5 17 14
Békés 925 943 101.9 4 1 0 5 9
Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén 1,361 1,453 106.7 5 3 5 13 27
Csongrád 761 935 122.9 9 0 2 11 5
Fejér 1,187 1,427 120.2 10 2 5 17 20
Győr-Moson-Sopron 1,651 1,550 93.9 7 5 4 16 15
Hajdú-Bihar 973 870 89.4 6 5 4 15 21
Heves 893 802 89.8 3 2 1 6 19
Komárom-Esztergom 1,255 1,250 99.6 2 3 2 7 12
Nógrád 806 703 87.2 3 0 1 4 4
Pest 2,094 2,056 98.2 11 9 4 24 25
Somogy 743 696 93.7 7 0 4 11 11
Szabolcs-Szatmár-B. 824 832 101.0 6 0 2 8 15
Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok 938 947 101.0 9 3 5 17 17
Tolna 592 677 114.4 1 3 6 10 8
Vas 849 792 93.3 2 1 1 4 7
Veszprém 1,006 1,016 101.1 3 4 2 9 13
Zala 546 466 85.3 9 2 0 11 6
Abroad 136 202 148.5 4 1 2 7 4
Total: 23,872 23,971 100.4 125 53 60 238 290

Source: SZMM, 1279-1/2007

The report contains the sectoral summaries of how the Hungarian National Programme of Occupational Safety and Health (2003-2007) has been put into practice. The corresponding annual plans are coordinated by the governmental inter-ministerial labour safety coordinating committee, while the ministries are responsible for the implementation. The report states that, as in previous years, the implementation of the programme is hindered, since the setting up of a separate insurance system for work-related accidents and illnesses is delayed, although this was among the most important goals originally.

The report states that due to the increased number of inspections, there is a significant improvement in risk assessment, in the elaboration of safety and health protection documents in mining. The report concludes that the overall labour safety situation is acceptable.

Labour safety related inspections undertaken by the Hungarian Labour Inspectorate once again show that the employees’ healthy and safe working conditions depend primarily on the lawful behaviour and the economic standing of employers. Due to the increased number of inspectionsby …, the majority of inspected employers comply with the risk assessment requirements. Experiences show that those enterprises where OHS management system is applied, the situation of risk assessment and its quality are improved.

Regarding the supply of personal protective equipment, despite some improvement, insufficient level of protection of employees is often the case. Failure to comply with the regulations is often due to a lack of vested interest, and /or a lack of financial resources.

Compliance with regulations of labour safety and protection is closely related to the accessibility to relevant information. In this regard the public and free of charge information system “OHS Information Service” operated by the labour inspectorates is considered important. The number of reported occupational diseases has dropped by 28%, while the number of cases of exposure increased by 4% as compared to the previous year (2005). As much as 50% of the fines collected through the labour protection fine system is used through tendering to serve labour safety development programmes, education activities.

National Public Health and Medical Officer Service (Állami Népegészségügyi és Tisztiorvosi Szolgálat, ÁNTSZ) in its related activities has been primarily aiming at forecasting, recognising, assessing and managing the risks and dangers for health resulting from workplace conditions through work. The agency operated its system of means of primary prevention – accordingly, the number of measures and sanctions has increased.

The report to the Government was consulted with the employee organisations and was discussed by the plenary session of the Labour Safety Committee of the National Interest Reconciliation Council.

3.4 Report of the OHS Information Service of the Hungarian Labour Inspectorate (Országos Munkavédelmi és Munkaügyi Főfelügyelőség, OMMF) (2005)

This service has been operating since 2002 and has become well known in the field of OHS. Its goal is to provide OHS related information for micro-enterprises, as well as SMEs, along with starting enterprises, with greater emphasis laid on prevention. The service operates countrywide, operating on a regional basis. The increase in requests for information follow the introduction of new regulations, the amendment of the Labour Code, further harmonisation with EU law, and major events related to labour safety. Increase in information requests could also be observed linked to public procurement.

As much as 64,2% of enquiries came from employers (slightly increasing), 19,7% from employees (slightly decreasing). Less than 1% of the requests for information came from interest organisations, while 15% from unidentified sources. There is a constant growth in the number of requests for information by those responsible for OHS. Most of the requests came from the construction industry, followed by those from education and commerce. Information requests on labour matters are still numerous, but their proportion decreases while there is an increase in enquiries related to proceedings by inspectorates (public procurement, accreditation of rehabilitation, compulsory information related to construction investments, new regulations on workplace accidents, etc.) The service is regularly made use of by specialists of labour protection, entrepreneurs of SMEs. Employees mainly seek advice related to concrete problems at the workplace – their requests show high level of defencelessness.

B. Actual examples of social dialogue influencing working conditions

4. Examples of social dialogue

4.1 Occupational Health and Safety Committee

The actors involved:

The Occupational Health and Safety Committee is the permanent professional body of the tripartite OÉT. The Committee is composed of delegates of employee and employer organisations, as well as the government. The Committee’s tasks are set by the Labour Protection Act.

Level: national

Description of the issue:

The task of the Occupational Health and Safety Committee is to undertake macro-level interest concertation on issues of occupational health and safety. It acts on the basis of its own agenda. The Committee makes decisions about the use of funds collected through penalties paid by employers not observing OHS rules. The Committee also prepares the annual national level programme of health and safety. Since 2005 the Committee has been acting on the bases of more flexible agenda offering the possibility of flexible cooperation and the establishment of working groups.

Outcomes:

The delegates of employer organisations criticised the government for placing much more emphasis on labour control than on health and safety control. The establishment of the regional health and safety inspectors may offer remedy for this. According to the delegates of employee organisations, the new agenda of the Occupational Health and Safety Committee may help overcoming legitimacy problems and the concentration of responsibilities helps to prevent conflicts. The operation of the committee contributes greatly to the elaboration of OSH related legislative provisions; it has issued opinion on related matters and acts as an outstanding body in the’ interest representation of social partners. Interest concertation in the committee has contributed to the elaboration of the annual schedule of the national OSH programme.

4.2. Partnership for Safety Employment – a forward looking agreement of the authorities, social partners, interest organisations, businesses.

The actors involved:

The agreement was signed in 2006 by the Minister of Social Affairs and Labour (Szociális és Munkaügyi Minisztérium, SZMM), the President of OMMF (Hungarian Labour Inspectorate), two trade union confederations, the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Magyar Kereskedelmi és Iparkamara, MKIK), and some major enterprises. The agreement is open – it is hoped to draw the attention and further signatories on a wide scale.

Level: national

Description of the issue:

As a consequence of the transformation of Hungary’s political, social and economic system during the past decade and a half, as well as Hungary’s accession to the European Union, issues of the labour market and employment policy have become more important than previously. These developments made it necessary that significant amendments of provisions and regulations are made. Enhancing “Safety Employment”, which is as important from the point of view of the employers and employees as of the authorities, came to the fore.

In September 2006 various actors called for ensuring the rights of employees and their safe working environment. They also warned that unlawful dismissal of employees should be prevented. Addressing these issues, they wished to contribute to the protection and the development of employment and occupational values on the one hand, and to establish a partnership between the authorities and the other actors of the labour market which would be exemplary in the EU. The high percentage of illegal employment, the trends in the number of work accidents, a sudden increase in employees’ complaints were also pointed out as alarming.

Within the framework of this new type of partnership sanctioning is not considered the primary tool, “as it is inefficient against illegal actors of the economy while imposing unnecessary burden on law-abiding enterprises.” Instead, signatories of the agreement advocate cooperation. Accordingly, the signatories of the agreement declared that “it is not enough to fight with only administrative means for the containment of negative phenomena in employment, and achieving mutual respect and trust between the actors of the labour market is a common interest.”

Content of the agreement:

The partners “condemn all forms of illegal employment and agree to assert employees’ fundamental rights if they have to find employment at another employer.” The signatories declare that the “life and good health of employees are the most important values of society and the national economy. Ensuring occupational safety and health is the responsibility of the employer by implementing OHS provisions and developing healthy and safe working conditions and working environment. The partners pledge to improve working conditions and ensure that at least minimum OHS requirements are met”. Furthermore, they “pledge to act with circumspection in their contractual relationships in order to eliminate serious labour irregularities and OSH deficiencies; they expect a similar approach from the contracted entrepreneurs as well. They will not to conclude a contract, especially in the case of outsourcing, with entrepreneurs who infringe the employees’ rights, who do not meet minimum OSH requirements, or whose representative is not available personally.”

Employers pledged to refrain from “infringing labour provisions or minimum OHS requirements’ even when striving for more advantageous market position; in the course of “setting their prices they will not make offers which do not allow to pay their employees’ wages and social security contributions, or which do not allow complying with OHS provisions (e.g. providing necessary technology or working and protective equipment)”. The agreement states that “keeping work periods and providing rest periods are a part of employees’ fundamental rights and are indespensable for protecting their health”, therefore the signatories “will make efforts to eliminate cases of serious labour infringements in this respect as well. The signatories lay special emphasis on ensuring rest periods for workers, granting holidays prescribed by law, and ensuring that accurate details of working time are recorded.” The signatories recognise “that the right to receive wages (wage-like payments) is regarded as one of the most general rights of the employee”, which employers have to respect. The signatories agreed to employ an OHS expert and to ensure that all employees in the same workplace will be subject to the same OHS provisions. Employers “take on themselves the responsibility of ensuring the personal and material safety of labour inspectors, respect and have their workers respect his or her human dignity during labour and OHS inspection.” The signatories “emphasised the importance of law-abiding behaviour”. Employers “assume that they will assist the enforcement of trade union rights and will not restrain the establishment and operation of employee organisations.” Disputed issues will be subject to “negotiations and only if their resolution failed through negotiations will they file official notice by legal consequences.”

The signatories agreed to promote the agreement trough their official and business relationships.

The agreement defines the role of the Hungarian Labour Inspectorate in regularly informing partners about changes of provisions and amendments to the law, ensuring the right to consult. Regular professional events will be organised with the aim to promote OHS and labour provisions. The Hungarian Labour Inspectorate agreed to list on its homepage the names of organisations which are entitled to indicate the title “Safety Employment Partner” on their products, publications, and services.

Outcomes:

For the time being the impact of this agreement can not be assessed. Beside new signatories, one of the trade unions has already questioned the seriousness of one original signatory enterprise for not complying with the exercise of basic trade union rights. (Since this is a new development, it is an open matter, without concrete results).

Sectoral OHS dialogue

Sectoral social dialogue is the “weakest” link in the system of social dialogue on OHS issues – its functioning is largely formal. Ministries responsible for managing and supervising sectoral OHS issues often do not pay due attention to it; discussion of OHS matters are often hindered by the lack of capacity and/or readiness on the part of the ministries to consult the social partners. It is hoped that the newly set up sectoral social dialogue committees will remedy this situation.

4.4 Sectoral social dialogue committees

Actors involved:

Employer organisations and trade unions organising in a given sector. In a number of sectors there is a lack of real partners with representative status and corresponding negotiating power.

Level:

Sectoral

Description of the issue:

The setting up of sectoral dialogue committees began in 2002 with support from a major PHARE project. (HU0212106F) By mid 2007, thirty-four such sectoral and sub-sectoral committees have been put in place. They aim at providing a mid-level forum for promoting sectoral labour relations, negotiating and concluding sectoral collective agreements. Sectoral dialogue committees provide social partners with the chance to discuss all sectoral issues and be able to channel their interests to macro level. At the same time, in case of concluding sectoral collective agreement, their coverage at workplace level give a higher level of security – with special emphasis on occupational safety and health issues. In practice, OHS-related issues are not high on the agenda of the majority of the committees. Only in few cases, like in the case of the Agriculture and the Electricity Industry Committees could report discussions on OHS topics. The agriculture committee initiated the national tripartite discussion on the issue of work-related stress.

Workplace level

Actors involved:

Employer and employee representative/s

Description of the issue:

The Labour Protection Act (1993/XCIII), the Labour Code, and their amendments stipulate that employees and their representatives are to be consulted by the employer and are allowed to participate in all the discussions on workplace safety and health. Election of safety representatives is compulsory at workplaces with employees over 50. In this function they can not be subject to discrimination. Safety representatives must be allowed to undertake their duties and are to be provided by the necessary means to that end.

In workplaces with more than 50 employees parity OHS bodies are to be set up which should be composed of representatives of employers, compulsorily including one manager, and employees. This body aims to ensure meaningful and regular dialogue on safety and health at work. It evaluates annually the situation of safety and health at the workplace, organises discussions about it, follows up on them/makes recommendations. The chair is appointed on rotating basis. It is the responsibility of the employers to set up these bodies, however, according to reports, they are established only in 20% of the cases: either the employer objects to do so, or no safety representatives are elected.

5. Social partner views

Please ask the social partners in your country for their general views on the type, nature and quality of the social dialogue in your country in terms of its influence on working conditions. This could include, for example, their assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the social dialogue, as it is organised in your country, as a tool for improving working conditions. Please report who you have contacted and in what form. The level of organisation (confederation, federation) that is relevant may differ between countries, although it is most likely that the organisation to be contacted will be a peak organisation.

5.1 Occupational Health and Safety Committee

Previously both employer and employee representatives criticised the practice of information provision by the authorities, as well as the mode of their operation. According to the latest report (Report to the Government on the labour safety situation in the Hungarian national economy - June 2007) social partners reported positive changes. The social partners assessed the practice of regular consultations with the representatives of the two sides as helpful.

Both employers and employees supported the establishment of a unified occupational safety authority (2006), while at the same time criticised the halting implementation of the framework (for this reason they have jointly appealed to the Minister of Health, as well as to the Minister of Social Affairs and Labour).

Both social partners criticise the lack of concrete steps to develop a separate workplace health insurance system. According to the two sides this system could be the most important incentive for companies, therefore they urge the realisation of the system as was originally agreed.

The employee side criticised the government’s decision to close the Public Foundation for Occupational Safety (Munkavédelmi Kutatási Közalapítvány, MKK), which endangers OHS related research in the future. In this respect both social partners support the ideas of the National Labour Safety Agency.

Employee representatives put forward a proposal for the elaboration of an information strategy in order to facilitate better use of available funds. It considers the privatisation of the National OHS Training Ltd. (Országos Munkavédelmi Képzõ és Továbbképzõ Intézet, OMKTI) a step contributing to the establishment of a modern secondary and tertiary training base.

5.2 Sectoral OSH dialogue

While the sectoral social dialogue committees are composed of the corresponding social partners, it is hoped that by becoming negotiating partners to the given ministries they will take the tasks of discussing sectoral occupational safety and health issues..

5.3 Workplace level

Employers often consider safety representatives as “enemies”, or “impediments”, hindering the profit-generating operation of the enterprise. In a large number of workplaces no safety representatives are elected and in many cases employees reject to undertake such task often being afraid to lose their jobs.

Employees report in a great number of cases that instead of “consultation”, employers reduce their duties to “information”. On the other hand employers, mainly in the SME and micro-enterprise sector, often criticise workers and their representatives claiming that they are not really prepared and lack the necessary knowledge.

Trade unions call for changes in the regulations: they demand safety representatives to be elected in SMEs too. The National Confederation of Hungarian Trade Unions (Magyar Szakszervezetek Országos Szövetsége, MSZOSZ) has initiated that safety representatives be compulsorily elected in workplaces with more than 20 employees, given the large share of SMEs in the economy. The proposal met fierce opposition from the employer side.

Trade unions criticised the Parliament for amending the relevant regulations dismissing trade union demands and the election of safety representatives has been made compulsory only in the business sector. Public sector workplaces covered by the Law on Public Service Employment and (excluding health employees, workers of public institutions) are not subject to the law.

Trade unions proposed the establishment of a system of “mobile safety representatives” aiming at the SME sector. According to their proposal the system would be financed by the state.

Both social partners see a need for assessing the impacts of labour safety on the economy from various aspects: positive and negative impacts of labour protection related regulations; cost-benefit studies; impacts of legislation; the strengths and weaknesses of newest developments. The issue of economic incentives, new possibilities, and incentives in practice should be measured against eventual improvements; conclusions should be drawn for employers, trade unions, decision makers, and insurance companies. The following issues should be addressed.

Is labour protection an element of competitiveness?

Does good labour protection have enhancing effects on competitiveness?

How can it be classified?

Provision of proof through good examples

What are the costs and benefits of prevention of stress?

What are the benefits of improving the health situation: business marketing (at workplace)?

Do company level decisions on labour protection have economic impacts? What are the existing means in practice?

Labour protection services - cost effectiveness (especially at SMEs)

Cost/ benefit models: what are the key aspects? What is the methodology?

Károly György, National Confederation of Hungarian Trade Unions

Following Hungary’s accession to the EU, Act XCIII./1993 on Occupational Health and Safety was amended; it prescribes for employers with more than 50 employees to ensure the election of health and safety representatives. (With more than 3 representatives elected, an occupational health and safety commission is established.) The OSH commission and representatives are entitled to: access OHS related information; evaluate the condition of workplaces and equipment with respect to safety and health; review the implementation of OSH related measures of the employer; participate in investigating work related accidents; (dis)approve the company’s OSH plan.

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