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Construction worker dies in Tbilisi as government mulls labour inspection reform

30 May 2017

A construction worker has died after falling from a construction site at Politkovskaia street in Tbilisi on 30 May. An investigation is ongoing for violations of health and safety rules during at the site.

Similar accidents occurred in Tbilisi on 15 and 27 March, and in Batumi on 21 March. An investigation is ongoing for violations of health and safety rules in these cases as well. According to official data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 270 workers died and 776 have been injured in 2011–2016 as a result of occupational accidents.

Labour rights groups claim that the high number of fatal occupational accidents in Georgia shows that labour rights are regularly violated, and that labour inspection in the country is dysfunctional, as it fails to address violations of safety rules.

The issue of labour inspection gained increased attention in the country after four miners died on 9 May when a lift collapsed in a coal shaft in Tkibuli, in central Georgia. Protests broke out in solidarity with the miners in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, with three activists arrested. Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili attended the funeral of the deceased in Tkibuli.

After the accident, Georgia’s Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili called ‘everyone in the government, parliament, constitutional commission’, who opposes the creation of an effective labour inspection mechanism, ‘murderers’ on his private facebook profile.

Later, on 25 May, Georgia's Health, Labor, and Social Affairs Minister Davit Sergeenko presented a legislative initiative to the Georgian government to reform the Labour Inspection Department, which works under the ministry.

According to the initiative, the Labour Inspection Department will have the right to inspect workplaces without the prior consent of an employer, in contrast to the current legislation.

If the Government approves the initiative, it will be sent to parliament.

The Labour Inspection Department, which was reestablished in 2015, cannot currently inspect workplaces without the prior consent of an employer, and recommendations issued following an inspection are not legally binding.

‘On the other hand, employers should not be burdened by additional barriers’, Sergeenko added.