Joint activities of social partners, supported by the labour inspection and other public administration bodies can play an invaluable role in improving working conditions and safety. This is demonstrated by the practices of the construction industry, for example in Austria, Spain, but also in Poland. Can similar models of operation be implemented in other sectors, then? We discussed whether those could be applied to road transport with representatives of workers 'and employers' organizations from the industry during the ‘transferability workshop’.
The participants of the meeting, which took place on-line on the 20th October, 2020, had the opportunity to learn about two initiatives that brought tangible results (a radical reduction in the number of accidents). The Agreement for Safety in Construction, established following an initiative of employers, was presented by its coordinator, Mr. Michał Wasilewski from Skanska, while Mr. Jakub Kus, secretary of the Trade Union ‘Budowlani’, presented the history of the Agreement for Safety at Work in Crane Operation, initiated by the worker side.
The role of social partners in such activities, also in the European context, was discussed by Barbara Surdykowska, an expert from IPA and NSZZ ‘Solidarność’. She identified two potential foci of cooperation between social partners to improve work safety in transport: drivers' working time and musculoskeletal loads. These proposals were referred to by Dr. Jadwiga Siedlecka from the Department of Work Physiology and Ergonomics at the Institute of Occupational Medicine, discussing in detail the sources of health hazards of working behind the wheel, as well as the practices of mitigating the effects of these hazards, which brought measurable effects, testified by the IOM research.
In the discussion with representatives of employers and road transport workers, moderated by Dominik Owczarek, director of the Social Policy Program at IPA, the participants drew attention to the challenges faced by the industry. The key to the safe work of drivers is to provide an appropriate infrastructure (and therefore an appropriate number and quality of hotel spaces along international routes, guarded parking lots with appropriate services), which should be the concern of the state and the task of its agencies, such as the General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways. Nevertheless, as Tadeusz Kucharski, chairman of the National Section of Transport in NSZZ "Solidarity" pointed out, the lack of infrastructure should not be an excuse not to attempt to introduce the needed solutions. The participants agreed that the difficulty was the actual suspension of the activity of the industry tripartite commission, where they could be worked out on the basis of joint arrangements. However, this should not be an obstacle to adopting a strategy of small steps that are feasible and do not require significant funding. As shown by the experience of the construction sector, such a strategy has a chance of success, and in the transport industry the starting point may be the emerging joint initiatives (e.g. cooperation between NSZZ "Solidarność" and the Employers’ Association ‘Polish Transport and Logistics’).
The event, hosted by Małgorzata Koziarek from IPA, was organized as part of the SPLIN European research project focusing on the role of social partner institutions in inspecting and enforcing labor standards. The project has been carried out in Austria, Finland, Spain and Poland.
The project is co-financed by the European Commission, DG Employment within the budget line „Improving Expertise in the field of Industrial Relations“ (VP/2018/004)