From March 1, 2022, new amendments to Section X of the Labor Code «Labor Protection» will come into force. The corresponding Federal Law No. 311 of 02.07.2021 «On Amendments to the Labor Code of the Russian Federation», developed by the Ministry of Labor, was approved by the Federation Council on June 23 of this year. The new version of the law implies a change in the concept of labor protection. According to the department, the general task of the amendments is to move from a list approach to risk-oriented management in this area, oblige the employer to take into account the risks that arise at a particular workplace and ensure the safety of employees in accordance with them. In addition, the emphasis is largely on preventive measures, prevention and a more careful assessment of the employee's condition. In particular, the document will include a new concept for the labor code – micro trauma. This means bruises and superficial wounds received during work, which will be taken into account to prevent more serious injuries.
Among other innovations is a ban on working in dangerous working conditions. If, according to the results of a special assessment, the conditions at the workplace are assigned the 4th class, the activity must be stopped until the employer reduces the level of danger, which must be confirmed by the results of a repeated special assessment. At the same time, employees at this time retain both their workplace and average earnings. In addition, according to the new law, the assessment of occupational risks must be carried out not only for existing production processes, but also before the commissioning of new facilities and newly organized workplaces. The new law also fundamentally changes the approach to the provision of personal protective equipment: they will be provided taking into account the harmful production factors present at the workplace, and not depending on the profession of the employee employed at a particular workplace, as was previously accepted. In addition, employers will have new rights. They will be able to provide electronic document management in the field of labor protection and use equipment for remote video, audio or other recording to monitor the safety of work. It should be noted that during the preparation of the draft law, the new version caused a lot of complaints from both trade unions and employers.
First of all, the dissatisfaction and concerns concerned the proposal of the Ministry of Labor to rewrite Article 209 of the Labor Code of the Russian Federation, which contains the basic concepts of labor protection.According to the new wording of the concept of «safe working conditions», which the agency wanted to include in the code, the impact on the employee of harmful and (or) dangerous production factors could be formally excluded due to using of personal protective equipment, and these working conditions could be interpreted as safe. However, such a definition, according to Alexey Bezyukov, Deputy Chief technical Inspector of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia, could allow employers to refuse employees payments and benefits for harmfulness in the future, arguing that they are provided with means of protection that completely neutralize the harmful effects. The Mining and Metallurgical Trade Union of Russia was particularly vocal against the innovation, its members criticized the amendments in a video that gained a million views on YouTube, and held a rally outside the State Duma building, where they handed over 500 appeals of metallurgists to the deputies of United Russia. By joint efforts, the trade unions were still able to get rid of this controversial point in the document. By the second reading, on the proposal of the Committee on Labor, Social Policy and Veterans Affairs, the amendment to article 209 proposed by the Ministry of Labor was removed.
The Federation of Maritime Transport Workers Trade Unions, which includes the Seafarers Union of Russia, also made its proposals during the preparation of the draft law, which would take into account the provisions of the MLC 2006 and the peculiarities of seafarers ' work. The fact is that although the MLC was ratified by Russia back in 2012, many of its requirements are still not implemented in national legislation. From the very beginning, the SUR has been working to correct this defect, including in the field of labor protection.
Unfortunately, the proposals of the SUR were not taken into account in it. However, the Russian Trilateral Commission, at whose meetings the issue of the need for changes proposed by the Federation was repeatedly raised, on May 28 again supported the position of the Federation and invited the Ministry of Labor of the Russian Federation, together with the Federation and the Russian Chamber of Shipping, to work out the Federation's proposals for introducing amendments to the legislation aimed at taking into account the peculiarities of the work of crewmembers of sea vessels and vessels of mixed (river-sea) navigation on the basis of the requirements of the MLC in terms of state labor protection management.
Proposed changes concern committees (commissions) on labor protection. According to the law, they can be created at the initiative of the employer, employees or their representative body from representatives of the employer, trade union or other authorized body to organize actions to ensure the requirements of labor protection, prevent occupational injuries and occupational diseases, conduct inspections of working conditions and other things. However, their creation is not mandatory. The Federation also insists on the introduction of a norm according to which a ship's committee (commission) on labor protection must be established on sea vessels and vessels of mixed (river–sea) navigation, on board of which there are at least five crewmembers. These are the requirements contained in the MLC.
Also, a long-standing problem of Russian legislation in terms of compliance with the Convention is the lack of proper collection of information about incidents on board. Thus, the MLC obliges the state not only to ensure the comprehensive maintenance of proper reporting on accidents, injuries and occupational diseases at work, but also to keep a complete statistical record of these data, and this information should be analyzed, published and studied to determine general trends and develop recommendations for the prevention of accidents on ships. Currently, this is not provided for by the legislation in our country. The current regulation assumes notification exclusively of group, serious and fatal accidents, and information about them is collected only at the level of the subject of the Russian Federation. Because of this, a detailed study, the development of preventive measures at the federal level with the participation of representatives of shipowners and seafarers and the subsequent prevention of similar incidents remains impossible.
In order to change the situation and bring Russian legislation into line with international requirements, the Federation proposes changes concerning the reporting of accidents. The Federation believes that the captain should inform not only the employer about such incidents (as specified in the new Federal Law), but also the relevant Russian trade union, as well as the federal executive body authorized to exercise federal state supervision over compliance with labor legislation and other regulatory legal acts containing labor law norms. In addition, there are other deficiencies in the new law concerning the work of seafarers. Thus, according to the Labor Code of the Russian Federation, an employer, having received information about an accident, must transfer it to the territorial body of the federal executive authority authorized to exercise federal state supervision over compliance with labor legislation and other regulatory legal acts containing labor law norms, as well as to the prosecutor's office at the place of registration of the vessel.Federation considered it fundamentally wrong and proposed to replace the place of registration of the employer (shipowner). After all, the specifics of the shipping industry are such that often the place of registration of a ship and a shipping company does not coincide. For example, the shipowner may be registered in St. Petersburg, while the ship itself is in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. At the same time, the employer is obliged to participate in the investigation of the circumstances of the accident.
Also, among those to whom the employer must transmit information about the accident that occurred, the Federal Law lists «the corresponding territorial association of trade union organizations». The Federation also adheres to the position that it is necessary to inform the relevant Russian trade union about seafarers, because this is the only way to ensure the participation of a maritime trade union that has special knowledge in this area and understands the specifics of working conditions on a ship. Also, the Federation believes that a representative of the relevant Russian professional union should be included in the commission to investigate the accident that occurred on the ship. The main argument of the Federation is that the participation of the maritime trade union will increase the objectivity and quality of the investigation.
It should be noted that the MLC 2006 is a key international document that guarantees decent working conditions for seafarers. All its requirements are created in order to protect the rights of crewmembers as much as possible in any problematic situation. Therefore, as the first deputy chairman of the Seafarers Union of Russia, Igor Kovalchuk noted, the SUR continues to strive for the full implementation of the requirements of the MLC in the legislation of our country.