ACTRAV and PERC OSH experts meeting

On 20-21st of March 2024 The PERC, jointly with ILO-ACTRAV and with financial support of the UnionToUnion, organized networking meeting of trade union experts in charge of occupational health and safety from SEE and NIS countries in Chisinau, Moldova, in the Institute of labour of the National Confederation of Trade Unions of Moldova (CNSM). OSH specialists from Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Participants were greeted by the PERC and CNSM President Igor Zubcu.

The meeting discussed inclusion of “A safe and healthy working environment” as a fifth category of fundamental principle and right at work (FPRW). The ILO-ACTRAV senior workers specialist Victor Hugo Ricco presented the normative framework, in particular, the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155) and the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187) and respective obligations by all ILO member states and respective pathways for trade unions to ensure national level enforcement and promotion [1].

The ITUC work on OSH as fundamental workers right was introduced by Rory O’Neill [2]. He also presented respective agenda and targets of the ITUC in relation to the ILO standards setting processes (biohazards, chemicals and platform work), the effects of climate change on workers rights and safety [3], including mobilisation for the international commemoration day of 28 April [4] , trade union work at World Health Organisation, global agreement on chemicals, Rotterdam convention and other global frameworks.

Special focus of the meeting was devoted to the coming first standard setting discussion on protection from biological hazards at this year International Labour Conference. Victor Hugo Ricco introduced the standards setting process and preparational work by the Office [5], while Rory O’Neill informed about policies and priorities for the international trade union movement summarised in ITUC briefing.

In a round table, participants presented work of their organisations on occupational health and safety, with a focus on biological hazards, including experiences on COVID-19 risks and regulations, exposure to substances and products of biological origin in specific sectors (agriculture, textile, wood and others), experience of preventing risks and regulations in other sectors that can be referred in building trade union response to biohazards as well (e.g. in construction or mining), but also trade union policies regarding national health and security risks (e.g. in Ukraine due to war or Central Asia due to climate change effects).

Director of the Labour Inspectorate in Moldova Cătălin Țacu presented the current work of the institution in the country, with raising awareness and prevention focus, but also underlined existing challenges related to limited capacities for inspections in practice and powers for initiating specific measure to improve working conditions in relation to health and safety risks in result of enterprise level inspections. Negative trend of disempowerment of labour inspectorates in different countries was highlighted, under biased and misconnected “business friendly ideology” promoted by the policy makers under lobbying efforts of certain think tanks and “investors associations” and the outmost importance for unions to achieve ratification and to implement ILO Convention 81.

In group work the participants formulated recommendations and inputs for actions for the ITUC, PERC, ACTRAV. Sergeyus Glovackas, ILO-ACTRAV desk officer for Europe and Central Asia, concluded the meeting.