Public Defender's Statement on International Workers' Day
May 1 is International Workers' Day, which marks the historic struggle of workers around the world and symbolizes the need to provide employees with decent working conditions.
The Public Defender highlights the challenges in the field of labour rights, which are even more acute amid the current global pandemic. As a result of the pandemic and the state of emergency declared in the country, many employees lost their jobs, their salaries were reduced or they had to take an unpaid leave, while others’ workload has increased (e.g. medical workers, supermarket and pharmacy staff, etc.), with some of them working for unfixed hours (for example, prisons and closed facilities of deprivation of liberty). The issue of providing a safe working environment has become more important amid the pandemic. The Public Defender has repeatedly referred to these issues and will continue to monitor the situation in this direction in the future as well.
It should be praised that since September 2019, the Organic Law on Safety at Work has been applied to all areas of economic activity, while labour inspectors no longer face restrictions when monitoring safety requirements in the workplace. It is also welcome that competitions were announced in April for the purpose of increasing the number of inspectors. Despite this, unfortunately, the number of people killed and injured in the workplace is still high. In 2019, 49 people died and 142 were injured in accidents at work. According to the Public Defender, it is important that the Labour Inspection Department be staffed in a timely manner and that inspectors effectively monitor enterprises.
The issue of authorising labour inspectors to effectively supervise not only safety norms but the observance of other requirements of labour law is still on the agenda. In particular, the currently applied legislation allows inspectors to monitor labour rights, such as working hours, the right to take a leave, overtime and other issues only with the consent of companies. The Public Defender has been talking about this issue for many years and has been demanding that labour inspectors be given the opportunity to inspect not only safety norms, but the observance of any other requirements, by smoothly entering any enterprise and effectively responding to the detected violations.
In addition, the discriminatory attitudes in labour relations remain to be problematic. For example, the enjoyment of a paid maternity leave by women employed in the private sector still depends on the good will of the employer, which is why, in many cases, women are unable to exercise this right, while the right of a surrogate mother and a parent of a child born through surrogacy to take a parental leave is not provided for in the legislation at all. Sexual harassment is a widespread form of discrimination against women in the workplace, the result of which, almost always, is that women quit. Harassment in the workplace - usually by superiors – is another problem. One of the major challenges in both the public and private sectors is the violation of labour rights on the grounds of different and political opinions.
As part of her mandate, the Public Defender will continue to monitor and improve the situation of labour rights in the country by using all available levers.