ITUC-PERC OSH NIS regional Network meeting, Minsk, 10-11 October 2018

The ITUC-PERC OSH NIS Regional Network Meeting took place from 10 to 11 October 2018 in Minsk, Belarus. The trade union representatives from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia , Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan 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: providing safer and healthier work environment for workers, securing decent jobs in climate changing in NIS 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, Bert De Wel, ITUC policy officer, Nikolay Sharakh, President of the Free Trade Union “Belarussky”and Corneliu Constantinoaia expert from CNSLR Fratia Romania.

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 item on climate change and just transition, role of trade unions in social dialogue on how to secure decent jobs, social protection and more training opportunities for all workers affected by global warming and climate change policies.

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. They also showed that a growing number of workers had been victims of work-related accidents and diseases. The deterioration 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 OSH 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. 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. Participants expressed the need for an action plan for improvements in OSH 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.