European instead of terrible work standards

European instead of terrible work standards
Aleksandar Nikoloski

How often do we hear, or read about a worker who was injured at work, who was injured when handling a machine, was injured while working in a mine, or as in the case from the other day, when a worker fell from a scaffold in Forino, near Gostivar. So far, there has been no quality debate about the conditions in which workers are doing their jobs, especially those in labor-intensive activities. Has anyone ever asked how the textile workers handle their work, bent over the sewing machine, or the workers in the forestry sector, or in the metallurgical industry. How it is to do your job next to a furnace that works on a thousand degrees Celsius, or a machine that can cut your arm off, or lose your life in one wrong move.

Yesterday was Europe Day, May 9th. The day that marked the end of Nazism in Europe and created the biggest idea ever - the idea of a united Europe. It is an idea that has become a reality in the EU format. It is a dream that came true for some European countries, and is underway for others. Macedonia faces difficult challenges to overcome the dispute with Greece and become part of the realization of that dream for generations. But that dream will mean nothing if it does not materialize through a better life and better living conditions, more jobs, but also better working conditions and better pay for workers. The government should fulfill most of these conditions, otherwise EU membership will be just an unrealized dream.

I dedicate this 9th of May, this Day of Europe in Macedonia, to those who work daily in difficult conditions, with great risks for their own health and life. Integration into the EU will not make sense if these conditions do not change. The main battle was the battle with enormous unemployment, which in 2006, when VMRO-DPMNE formed a government, was almost 39 percent, and when the term of the VMRO-DPMNE government ended, it was reduced to 22 percent. At the same time, the government must make efforts to improve working conditions for workers. I do not see Zaev's government working on it.

The analysis shows that Macedonia does not have complete statistics on how much and what type of injuries occur at work, or how many workers are losing their lives doing their jobs. Here, the inspection services completely fail, which seem to be missing. The reasons may be negligence, unprofessionalism and the widely known secret that many bosses of firms that do not respect workers' rights are in conjunction with inspection services, corrupt them in order to avoid the catastrophic conditions.

The Law on Occupational Safety and Health is clear and says that the employer is obliged to inform the state administrative body competent for the labor inspection work immediately, and at the latest within 48 hours after the event, about: every case of death, collective accident and injuries at work that cause temporary incapacity for work for more than three working days; and - any occurrence which presents immediate danger, and endangers the safety of employees at work.

Unfortunately, in the past period, despite the legal obligation, no individual complaint for work injury and / or occupational illness has been submitted to the Institute of Public Health by the doctors of occupational medicine and / or other doctors who participated in their diagnosis and therapy. That is why the registers for occupational injuries and occupational diseases have not been established so far, and no publication of professional diseases in the Republic of Macedonia has been published. From what is available, it is known that in the course of 2017, a total of 1,111 work-related injuries were observed, an increase of about 20 percent over the previous year.

In the structure of the registered work injuries in 2017, the highest number was observed in industry and mining, a total of 397 injuries, or 35.7 percent of the total number of reported injuries. Then there are the injuries registered with the social organizations, which participate in the structure of the total injuries at work with 17.5 percent. These are 194 injuries, and compared to 2016, their number increased by 78.8 percent.

In third place in the structure of injuries in 2017 are injuries in health and social care with a total of 143 registered injuries, 12.8 percent.

In 2017, according to available data, there were 158 accidents at work. Of these, 24 were fatal. Thus, at least 24 people lost their jobs at work in 2017. Thus, the rate of deaths at work in Macedonia is 3.22, or every 100.000 employees, and three to four employees die. The death rate at work increased in comparison to 2016, when it was 2.62. If we compare these numbers with the ones in Great Britain, where the rate is only 0.5, we could conclude that Macedonia has a fairly high rate of fatal accidents at work.

I emphasize, these are only publicly known figures, probably the dark undeclared statistics are much worse. Employers are often trying to hide these cases, to remind only what kind of pressure the IGM owner Kavadarci carried out over TV Telma’s show “Code” not to broadcast stories about killed and injured workers at his factory. We have been asked how many other IGMs there are, how many other cases are they still silent about?

That is why I dedicate Europe Day to workers who have been injured at work, to families who have lost their loved ones at work, and to all who work in unsecured conditions. The government must conduct a strong campaign for the implementation of the Law on Occupational Safety and Health, the labor inspection must do its job, the trade unions must be loud, and we, as opposition, will be here to constantly remind them and look for government accountability in this regard.

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