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Ombudsman Criticizes Delay and Content of Work Safety Bill

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, February 9
(TBILISI)--Georgia’s Public Defender Nino Lomjaria has strongly criticized the delay of adoption of the work safety bill and added that the existing version of the draft, if adopted without changes, may even worsen the rights of employees.

The draft law was submitted by the government as early as June 1, 2017, though it has only been adopted at first reading, with two key readings still ahead.

The second reading, scheduled for February 5, 2018 was canceled due to the government’s failure to agree on the main provisions of the draft law.

“The delay in the process shows that neither the government nor the parliament has properly realized the need for the adoption of the draft law.

“ In addition, there are significant shortcomings in the draft law, but instead of their elimination, there is a serious danger that the existing text may even be made worse, which undoubtedly deserves a negative assessment,” Lomjaria says.

Lomjaria stated that the current draft applies to severe and harmful works. The ombudsman believes that introducing of these two criteria “extremely restricts” the areas covered by the law, in the situation when every employee has the right to safety at work.

“The draft law does not set new standards of safety at work, but only ensures implementation of the existing standards in practice by introducing a coercive mechanism, which makes it completely unacceptable to restrict the areas covered by the law,” Lomjaria claims.

She says that sanctions are also “extremely low” and cannot ensure achievement of the purpose of the law.

“In particular, the violation of each condition of safety at work leads to a warning for the first time and to a fine (50 GEL) in case it is repeated, which is absolutely insufficient. Furthermore, violation of certain obligations does not lead to any responsibility at all,” the ombudsman stated.

Lomjaria says that the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs is responsible for inspecting working conditions and represents a supervisory body.

She claims that that the current law does not establish an institution with an independent, flexible and strong mandate, which is a serious challenge.

“The draft law also does not provide for the allocation of additional funds from the state budget or strengthening of the Ministry with relevant staff, which greatly reduces the possibility of effective enforcement of the law,” Lomjaria said.

Lomjaria says that the supervisory body will be able to inspect an entrepreneur without a court order only through selective control and once in a calendar year, “which is a serious barrier and does not ensure effective enforcement of the law”.

The ombudsman claims that there are also other “important shortcomings” in the draft law, which makes it difficult to have expectations for essential changes in the existing “alarming situation” in the field of safety at work.