The recently amended Act XCIII of 1993 on Labour Safety (“Mvtv”) lays down that workers shall have the right to elect a representative or representatives from among themselves to represent their rights and interests related to occupational safety and occupational health (hereinafter referred to as “work safety representative”). According to the new rule, election must be held at all employer that employs at least 20 workers (instead of 50 workers according to the previous rule). The provision of the conditions for the election and conducting the election shall be the responsibility of the employer. As regards the election, mandate, dismissal and recall of work safety representatives, and their area of competence, the provisions of the Labor Code pertaining to members of works councils and to shop stewards shall be duly applied, including the possibility of foundation of a central committee for occupational safety. According to the referred provision of the Labor Code, employees nominated as work safety representative shall have legal capacity and shall have been employed by the employer - other than newly formed employers - for a period of at least six months, and works at the given fixed establishment. The following may not be elected to serve as members of a works council:
a) persons exercising employers’ rights;
b) relatives of the employer’s executive officers;
c) members of the election committee
A person appointed to carry out occupational safety functions on the employer’s behalf, under contract of employment, as his principle activity may not be elected work safety representative. Work safety representatives are elected by secret and direct ballot for a term of five years. The workers affected must be informed of the outcome of such elections. Employers must ensure the conditions in order that work safety representatives may exercise their rights, particularly:
(a) leave of absence with average pay, as necessary for carrying out his duties, meaning at least ten per cent of the monthly worktime for work safety representatives and members of the representative body;
(b) the necessary equipment, such as operating, technical and material conditions, and the relevant technical specifications;
(c) the opportunity to attend, within one year of being elected, a training course of at least 16 hours during an election cycle, and the opportunity of annually taking 8 hours of training subsequently. The above costs shall be borne by the employer. The training referred to in Paragraph c) shall be held in regular work hours, and it may be held in an external location.
Within the framework of exercising their rights, work safety representatives shall be entitled to inquire among the employees working there, participate in the preparation of employer decisions which may affect the health and safety of employees, express their opinion, request information, take part in the investigation of industrial accidents, etc. The work safety representatives are protected under labor law, to which the provisions on the protected union officials shall apply, provided that the committee shall be construed as the immediate higher trade union organ, or in the absence thereof, the body of employees who elected the work safety representative.
As regards the employers where no work safety representative had been elected, but it is mandatory after the above amendment, the election must be held by January 8 2017. Since the provision of the conditions for the election and conducting the election shall be the responsibility of the employer, the occupational safety and health authority may impose fine according to the general provision of section 82(1) of the Mvtv if it fails to comply with such requirement – although such case is not mentioned by section 82(2) as a circumstance specifically leading to the fine being imposed. If the employer conducted the election according to the above rules of the Labor Code, but the ballot or the election is invalid (or it is verified that the election could not be conducted because e.g. there was no candidate for the role of work safety representative) then the employer cannot be sanctioned on this basis (similar to the election of works councils). Having regard to the foregoing, it is advised for the employers to fulfil their requirement to elect a work safety representative within the prescribed deadline or at least shortly or at the earliest.