ITUC/PERC OSH Balkan regional Network meeting, Igalo, 4-5 October 2018

The ITUC/PERC OSH Balkan Regional Network Meeting took place from 4 to 5 October 2018 in Igalo, Montegero. The trade union representatives from Albania, BIH, Croatia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, discussed the recent developments in health and safety policies and practices, and the challenges and the steps that would be necessary to improve the situation. The theme of the meeting was: ”Trade union approaches and strategic opportunities in OSH: challenges and providing a safer and healthier work environment for workers in the Balkan region countries”. The meeting was supported by U2U project. The following experts shared their knowledge and experiences with the Network participants: Viktor Kempa, ETUI senior researcher, Ivan Majer OSH expert and Cvetan Kovac expert from NHS Croatia.

The main items discussed during the meeting were linked to current developments and main challenges in the region, relations between a stable OSH policy and protection at workplace, discussion on dangerous substances and occupational diseases, EU developments in OSH. The program included a special training on psychosocial risks and trade union strategies.

The reports from OSH Network participants indicated that the deterioration of health and safety practices ran parallel to changes in forms of employment and growth of precarious employment, while at the same time labour legislation had been amended in many countries, reducing workers’ rights. They also showed that a growing number of workers had been victims of work-related accidents and diseases, while the number of fatal accidents had increased – bringing not only misery and pain to many families but also exacting a high price for society as a whole.

The downsizing of national OSH protection and inspection systems has greatly contributed to these negative trends. Some of the widely seen discrepancies between the countries are caused by the lack of concrete strategies for prevention, the weakening of labour inspectorates and their role in the enforcement of OHS legislation, and the non-transparent role of preventive and protective health services.

Participants called for the strengthening of social dialogue and partnerships in the field of health and safety at work – following the best examples of other European Union countries. Vigorous systems of inspection, and enforcement of legislation through the cooperation of authorities, employers and trade unions, are crucial to any sustainable improvement, and the potential for trade unions to promote workplace health and safety should be used at all levels, especially in times of shrinking resources.

However, to achieve these aims, OSH has to first, be more accountable and second, eradicate the high level of underreporting of accidents and work-related illnesses. In particular, trade unions in the region see critical failures in risk assessment at SMEs. The exposure of workers to psychosocial risks, work-related cancers and MSDs is enormous.
Participants expressed the need for a genuine evaluation of the implementation of EU laws in OHS in these countries and an action plan for improvements in OHS working conditions in the region. The OSH Network members expressed their interest to start campaigning for ”Zero cancer working places”, increase cooperation in the region, use more the EU funds available through the TAIEX instrument and contribute with country profiles for the ETUI data base.

psychosocial risks
osh challenges
dangerous substances
ohs country profiles
psychosocial risks