UNION OF TECHNICIANS & OCCUPATIONALSAFETY AND HEALTH INSPECTORS – EMPLOYEES OF THE MINISTRY OF LABOR & SOCIAL SECURITY
P.O. Box, 8053, 29 Stadiou St., Athens, P.C. 10559
Tel. (+30) 210.37.02.339, Fax: (+30) 210. 37.02.310,
Athens, June 9th, 2011
Reg. No : 59
To : 1) the International Labor Office (I.L.O.)
2) the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (O.S.H.A.)
3) the Senior Labor Inspectors Committee (S.L.I.C.)
Communication : Attached table
COMPLAINT - DENUNCIATION AGAINST THE LABOR INSPECTORATE REFORM AND SOCIAL SECURITY ISSUES REGULATIONS BILL AND THE LABOR INSPECTORATE CURRENT SITUATION
this letter intends to inform you on the latest ominous developments regarding Labor Inspection in our country as well as to express our concern, indignation and frustration against the whole body of law reforms endorsed by the Ministry of Labor & Social Security political leadership.
In particular, in the Labor Inspectors view, the attempted reform of the 2639/1998 Law («labor relations Regulation, Labor Inspectorate establishment and other provisions»), which is currently in force thus setting the context for the Labor Inspectorate operation in our country, is inevitably expected to lead to the total degradation of Labor Inspection and Inspectors’ institution.
For one year the Ministry’s Political leadership has been working on a new bill which, according to their announcements, aims to upgrade Labor Inspectorate. Despite the provided assurances that the new currently planned legislative framework will lead to Labor Inspectorate substantial upgrading, in practice the exact opposite occurs. Although in the initial planning stages there seemed to exist the prospect for establishing a basic administrative and financial autonomy of Labor Inspectorate, when it was reinstated in the form of the General Secretariat in the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, things took a different turn.
In the end, the bill promoted for approval by the Parliament is unacceptable while its title («Labor Inspectorate Reform and Social Security Issues Regulations»), compared to its content, is tantamount to unprecedented ridicule and provocation towards the status and scientific prestige of our colleagues, i.e Labor Inspectors, as well as the employees and the Greek Society as a whole.
The most important points of the new bill evidently changing the Greek Labor Inspection system for the worse are - among others- the following:
1) The bill raises serious doubts as to Labor Inspectors’ free judgment during an inspection, undoubtedly rendering them at any time hostages and accountable to various officials and the political Leadership’s intentions when, as provided in the bill, they will be disciplinarily prosecuted, after the conducted inspections (violation of articles 6 and 17 of the 81 International Labor Agreement)
It is quite evident that the actual and constantly changing working conditions in the workplace during an inspection do not allow third parties not participating in the inspection procedure to fully comprehend it and therefore form a sound and objective opinion thereon.
2) Labor Inspectorate is burdened with a cumbersome «by work» not relevant to the labor law enforcement, which actually obstructs Labor Inspectors from smoothly executing their basic inspectional tasks, thus violating article 3, paragraph 2 of the 81 International Labor Agreement. In particular, the Labor Inspectorate is required to make up for other state services (National Statistical Service, I.K.A.(Social Security Organization), Ministry of Health, Municipal Police, Ministry of Development etc.) displaying lack of control and support mechanisms as well as lack of organization regarding the collection and dispatch of a big volume of statistical data for EUROSTAT, controls on the new smoking ban enforcement, controls on Motor Vehicle Operator's professional Licenses, controls on the contributions made by employers to the insurance funds etc. In this way the understaffed Labor Inspectorate’s main inspectoral role is inevitably disrupted and reduced.
At the same time, the Labor Inspectors’ dignity and scientific prestige are brutally offended since they are assigned extraneous tasks, irrelevant to their studies and education.
3) The new bill provisions regarding the ways to inflict administrative penalties on employers for certain violations (in conjunction with the Labor Inspectorate being burdened as mentioned above with the inspectoral task normally assumed by other public services being extraneous to its purposes), changes the Body’s operation transforming it into a common collection mechanism.
The bill’s inexperienced instigators, among others, consider minor violations (for example the lack of work machinery operation license or not wearing a helmet on the construction site) of primary importance and worthy of penalty, while major oversights (for example work on precarious scaffolding or the existence of uncovered holes at workplace) entailing immediate risk of serious and fatal accidents, are considered to be of secondary importance.
4) The bill purposely misinterprets article 9 of the 81 International Labor Agreement introducing the concept of the expert not as someone who can cooperate and serve the Body providing scientific support and expertise on specialized occasions and when it is necessary (that is, in compliance with the spirit of the 81 International Labor Agreement ), but as a freelance scientist (instead of a public officer), who is entitled to participate in inspections together with Labor Inspectors or even fully or partially replace them. In brief, experts from the private sector will be able to conduct inspections on the labor legislation enforcement following the arbitrary and under no clear criteria task assignment by any Political Leadership, in which case article 6 of the 81 International Agreement is infringed.
5) The bill was drawn up preposterously ignoring the guidelines suggested by the “SLIC” (SENIOR LABOUR INSPECTORS COMMITTEE), as enunciated in the Labor Inspectorate operation assessment report, issued in October 2008 (following the delegation’s last visit to our country in November 2006), whose copy is attached hereto. In this report, the suggested main components contributing to a both realistic and functional Body upgrade are:
Ø The Body’s inspectors’ substantial participation in the Labor Legislation drafting process, in the long term planning and the setting of targets and not the Body’s marginalization by «centers» outside Labor Inspectorate. (unit Β.2.2, page 19 and unit G.2, page 53).
Ø Labor Inspectorate autonomy in the form of administrative and financial independence so that the Body can be substantially upgraded and dispense with the current malfunction resulting from minor importance oversights such as lack of work machinery operation license or no use of a helmet on the construction site.
The above mentioned points are enough to indicate that the new bill introduces major innovations with an adverse impact on the Labor Inspectorate organization and operation; we believe it clashes with or even blatantly violates the basic principles and the spirit of the 81 International Labor Agreement that our country is committed to comply with.
Besides the currently planned bill, we wish to point out that now our country goes through such a hard time (financial recession, financial distress, unemployment etc.) where the employees’ sole support comes from the Labor Inspectorate, at a time when the Greek Economy Support Mechanism itself (the European Commission – the European Central Bank – the International Monetary Fund), through the memorandum signed by our country, underlines how important it is to reinforce Labor Inspectorate, the exact opposite occurs. Not only is the existing structure of Services still lacking in human resources, but also new problems regarding their operation daily arise, owing to the lack of funds for Inspectors’ travels, the lack of dispensable material as well as necessary equipment. (Fax machines, computers, printers, Α4 paper, ink, bookcases, etc.).
No need to mention of course many other chronic problems such as the lack of constant training or failure to provide Labor Inspectors with the foreseen personal protective equipment required for safe task execution.
For all the aforementioned reasons, we appeal to you hoping that you will promptly intervene and help appraise and evaluate the current situation with regard to the implementation of the principle of legality.
Attached documents: Evaluation of the Greek Labor Inspectorate System (55 pages).
On behalf of the Board of Directors
The Chairman The General Secretary
Karagiannis Konstantinos Oikonomou Vasileios
Υ.Γ.:For further information you will be dispatched the soonest possible the bill’s final version expected to be put to vote in the National Parliament, according to the latest announcements by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.
1) The Office of the Prime Minister Mr. George Papandreou
2) The Labor and Social Security Undersecretary Mr. V. Kegeroglou.
3) The Labor and Social Security Undersecretary Mrs. A. Ntalara
4) The Labor and Social Security General Secretary Mrs. A. Stratinaki
5) Labor Inspectorate Special Secretary Mr. M. Chalaris.
6) European Commission Representation in Greece
7) Parliament Parties
8) All Regional Centers for Occupational Risk Prevention (K.E.P.E.K) and Technical & Health Inspection Department
9) The General Confederation of Greek Workers (G.S.E.E.)
10) The Senior Management Officials Association (A.D.E.D.Y)
11) The Mass Media