Worker participation - Cyprus

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Spyros Dontas, ELINYAE


Introduction

Worker participation means the involvement of workers / employees in decision making processes at a company, sector or national level. This does not include only information and consultation, but also direct or indirect participation in management or other decisions [1]. Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) management systems also provide a field of worker participation. This article is confined in its description to worker participation and involvement in OSH management in the Republic of Cyprus.

According to government statistics, Cyprus has a relatively high percentage (55% to 58%) of Trade Union participation. Although Union membership has shown a 21% increase between the years 2000 and 2006 (in absolute numbers from 170.400 to 205.800) one can see that for the same period overall employment has increased by 36%. This means that Trade Union participation has decreased from 65% to 58% [2]. According to 2002 data obtained from the Cyprus Labour Institute [3] bargaining coverage is estimated at about 63%. It should be mentioned that this figure includes the broader public sector whose coverage reaches near 100%. Still, according to the Minister of Labor and Social Insurance 25% of the Cypriot workforce is undeclared. In the hospitality sector the undeclared work for EU (non-Cypriot) citizens rises to 35% [4] .


Regulatory framework for worker participation

Worker participation is a cornerstone of any decent OSH management and organization system. At the international level, Article 19 of the ILO Convention C-155 [5] contains regulatory provisions on worker participation. In addition, article 12 of the ILO Recommendation R-164 6. [6] gives more details on specific rights and possibilities with respect to worker participation. Finally, ILO Recommendation R-129 contains general suggestions for better communication between worker and employers.

At the European level, the European Directive 2002/14/EC [7] has installed a legal framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Union. It is through workers’ representatives in a company that the directive makes it necessary for employers to inform and consult their employees. This is accomplished in three specific areas:

  1. The present and the foreseeable activities and economic development of the company,
  2. The situation, structure and probable development of employment and any new measures,
  3. The decisions that could lead to important changes in work organization or the contracts signed between the workers and the company.

Concerning worker information and consultation on OSH matters, OSH Framework Directive 89/391/EEC [8] is the main legal source promoting worker participation.

At the national level, Cypriot legislation has been fully harmonized with European legislation on OSH matters. However, collective bargaining, which sets minimum terms and work conditions of a binding nature for all employees, does not exist in Cyprus at the national level. Thus, collective bargaining is decentralized, with most agreements being settled at the enterprise level. The agenda of negotiations mainly includes economic issues such as the cost of living allowances, wages and benefits. Negotiations on working conditions mostly cover working hours and annual leave and are less oriented on other OSH matters [9].

The legal framework on OSH matters in Cyprus is based on laws and regulations emanating from them. Cyprus has transposed OSH Framework Directive 89/391/EEC [8]. The Safety and Health at Work Laws (89(I)/1996-2011, Articles 7-10) [10], Regulation on OSH Management at Work (173/2002, Article 11) [11] and Regulation on Safety Committees (134/1997) [12] foresee how workers are able to participate on OSH Management at a company level.


OSH and worker participation

Worker participation on OSH matters can potentially be divided in three levels: a) the cross-industry level, b) the sectoral level and c) the company level. However, since Cyprus is one of the smallest EU countries, worker participation at the sectoral level is not prevalent. The cross-industry level in Cyprus, developed in the next paragraph, includes both the private and public sector.

Cross-industry level

Since worker participation at the higher possible level in Cyprus includes both private employees and civil servants, worker participation at the cross-industry level is much the same as worker participation at the national level.

Law 89(I)/96 [13] established the Pancyprian Safety and Health Council (PSHC) [14] as a tripartite body (state/employers/employees). The council is a consultative body on OSH matters and provides advice to the Minister of Labour and Social Insurance on new legislation and measures for the prevention of work accidents and occupational diseases. It consists of representatives from the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance, the Mines Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment, the Agriculture Department of the same Ministry, the Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEB), the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KEBE), the major confederations of the trade unions (PEO, SEK, DEOK, POAS), the confederation of the public servants (PASYDY), the Cyprus Scientific and Technical Chamber (ETEK), the Cyprus Union of Bank Employees (ETYK) and the Cyprus Safety and Health Association (SAYK, its English acronym being: CySHA). According to law, the role of the Council is a) to advise the Minister on matters of accident and hazard prevention, b) to develop, disseminate and maintain those activities which will impact on or create the circumstances for the improvement of work conditions and health of the workers and the public in general, c) to submit propositions or recommendations to the Ministry for the measures that must be undertaken and best possible work procedures that must be followed, d) to advise the Minister with regards to possible changes in the legal framework, taking into account knowledge and experience obtained from studies conducted under local conditions, international developments and technological progress.

Sectoral level

Given that Cyprus is a small country in size and population it has a confined number of companies in each sector. Therefore, legislation does not anticipate worker participation on OSH matters at the sectoral level. Still, according to the Department of Labour Relations of the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance, up to 2008 there existed 17 sectoral agreements and about 400 company-level agreements [9]. However, according to the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) report on Worker Participation in Europe [15] which appeared in 2013, the Ministry of Labour has now listed 19 sectoral agreements in the private sector on its web site. It has been estimated that these sectoral agreements cover about 27% of the workforce. As mentioned above, the contents of these agreements rarely refer to matters on OSH.

Sectoral level negotiations (refered to also as industry level negotiations in the ETUI report) occur between the relevant industrial federations (trade unions) or in the banking sector the autonomous union, and the employers’ association. The agreements usually have a two year tenure period which at times may be extended to three years.

Company level

As mentioned above, the Safety and Health at Work Laws (89(I)/1996-2011, Articles 7-10) [10], Regulation on OSH Management at Work (173/2002, Article 11) [16] and Regulation on Safety Committees (134/1997) [17] prescribe worker participation on OSH Management at a company level [18].

Composition of a Safety Committee

Worker participation in decision-making processes depends on the number of employees. For companies with two to nine employees a Safety Representative (SR) is either elected or appointed by the employees. If the company employs 10 or more employees, a Safety Committee is elected. The employers should facilitate this election. Companies with 10 to 19 employees elect two Safety Representatives, companies with 20 to 49 employees three, while for every 50 more employees, one more Safety Representative is added. It should be mentioned that the Safety Committee of a company consists of the elected Safety Representatives, of the employer, or his representative, the company’s Safety Officer (SO) and a Medical Doctor, if available (the title and position of Occupational Physician in Cyprus is held only by a medical consultant of the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance).

Tenure and role of a Safety Committee

The office of the Committee is held for three years. There is no restriction on the number of terms that a member can hold. The Committee regularly meets once every three months or on special circumstances when requested in writing by all Safety Representatives, demanded by the employer or following accident or serious incident in the workplace.

The Safety Committee submits proposals to the employer regarding measures to be taken for the improvement of working conditions and the prevention of work related accidents and diseases. It also examines the employees’ complaints on safety and health and, generally, promotes the well-being of the workers. It encourages cooperation in the application on health and safety measures and safe work processes. It participates in the formation of Safety Rules for the company and ensures that the employees are appropriately informed and trained on OSH measures for their protection. It works in conjunction with the medical services of the company and, finally, supports the Labour Inspector in its work in the company.

The task of the Safety Committee or of the Safety Representative for small companies occupying two to nine employees should be encouraged and facilitated by the employer. The employer should provide the means and the time during working hours for the conduct of elections for a Safety Committee. He should also facilitate the members of the Safety Committee or the Safety Representatives to obtain information and training on OSH matters. On measures that the employer thinks necessary to ensure health and safety for his workers, the Committee or the Representatives should advise him. In that case, the employer is obliged to put into place all feasible measures. The employer makes available to the Safety Committee all necessary information and guidelines for safe work processes. However, the employer is not required to divulge information that concern industrial and trade secrets and information that concern any persons without his or her approval. Finally, the employer summons the Safety Committee, sets up and distributes the agenda and keeps minutes of the meetings.

Training of a Safety Committee

With regards to the training of the members of the Safety Committees, the legal provisions for training on OSH matters of all employees apply also to them. There are no specific provisions regarding OSH training only for members of Safety Committees and Safety Representatives. Only for the public sector the Department of Labour Inspection has offered special training for Representatives and members of Safety Committees within the framework of the EU Transition Facility programmes [19]. These training programmes aimed at giving these public servants the necessary knowledge and skills required to prevent exposure to health and safety hazards, how to cope with these and how to implement national legislation on OSH issues.

Worker participation as it stands today

According to information collected by the Data Processing Service of the Labour Inspectorate of Cyprus [20], up to the 31st of December 2012 there existed 1018 Safety Committees in which 4808 Safety Representatives participated. In this Data Processing Service, 4739 companies were registered. It should be noted that in the Registry of Companies of the Statistical Service of Cyprus [21] 5650 companies are recorded. The above statistical data are only indicative, since the facts relating to the number of employees in each company and their respective Safety Representatives continually change.

The European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER) – Managing safety and health at work, a European Risk Observatory Report on behalf of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work [22], is a survey based on telephone interviews concerning private and public sector establishments. The survey places emphasis on worker participation in OSH management and psychosocial risks. In Cyprus 53% of interviewees declare that the company in which they are employed has a documented management system or action plan on OSH matters. Further, 28% of the interviewees have expressed that this system has a large impact on general policy planning. Concerning OSH issues discussed in high-level management meetings, 36% of the interviewees claimed that these issues are regularly raised in the meetings, while 82% of line managers are involved in the management of OSH matters. 87% of the establishments have elaborated a risk assessment scheme, while external service providers supported 22% for this task. 42% of the companies that participated in the ESENER project declared they have a shop-floor trade union representative, 52% have an internal health and safety representative and 44% a Health and Safety Committee. 27% of the establishments occupy an ergonomics specialist, 50% a safety expert, 20% an occupational health doctor, 8% a psychologist and 36% provide general health and safety consultancy. The Labour Inspectorate visited 61% of the establishments in the last three years. Work-related stress is considered as a major concern by 43% of the establishments, while 16% also considered violence or threat of violence as a major concern. For bullying or harassment, the respective percentage is 13%. 40% of the employees are informed on psychosocial risks and their effect on health and safety. As for worker participation and its forms, 72% of the establishments follow a formal employee participation that is general employee representation or health and safety committees. The same percentage number applies for direct participation, covering information about whom to address in case of work-related psychosocial problems, encouragement to active participation in implementation and evaluation of measures, consultation regarding measures to deal with psychosocial risks and, finally, information about those risks and their effect on health and safety. One other finding of the survey is that 29% of health and safety representatives report lack of time available for their duties [23].

References

  1. Eurofound – European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) (2012). Home page. Retrieved on 22 January 2013, from: [1]
  2. Worker-participation.eu, the Gateway to Information on Worker Participation Issues in Europe (2013). Cyprus Key Facts. Retrieved on 20 January 2013, from: [2]
  3. Report on the Economy and Occupation 2008, Cyprus Labour Institute – Pancyprian Federation of Labour (INEK-PEO). Retrieved on 15 January 2013, from: [3]
  4. EU-OSHA and Cardiff Work Environment Research Centre (CWERC) - Analysis of the determinants of workplace occupational safety and health practice in a selection of the EU Member States, David Walters, Emma Wadsworth, Michael Quinlan, Final Draft, November, 2012
  5. ILO Convention concerning Occupational Safety and Health and the working environment C155, 1981. Available at: [4]
  6. ILO Recommendation concerning Occupational Safety and Health and the Working Environment R 164, 1981. . Available at: [5]
  7. Directive 2002/14/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2002 establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community - Joint declaration of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on employee representation, OJ L 080, 23.03.2002, p. 0029 – 0034. Available at: [6]
  8. Framework Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work, OJ L 183, 29.6.1989, p. 1–8. Available at: [7]
  9. Eurofound – European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions , Cyprus – Country Profile, by Eva Soumali, no date. Available at: [8]
  10. The legal framework on OSH in Cyprus (in Greek), 1996-2011. Available at: [9]
  11. Regulation on the Management on Safety and Health at Work (in Greek). No 3592, 05/04/2002. Entry into force: 1 January 2003. Available at: [10] Unofficial translation into English. Available at: [11]
  12. Regulation on Safety Committees (in Greek). No 3145, 24/04/97. Available at: [12]
  13. The legal framework on OSH in Cyprus (in Greek), 1996-2011. Available at: [13]
  14. The Pancyprian Safety and Health Council (26.03.2013). Retrieved on 8 February 2013, from: [14]
  15. Worker-participation.eu, the Gateway to Information on Worker Participation Issues in Europe (2013). Cyprus Key Facts. Retrieved on 20 January 2013, from: [15]
  16. Regulation on the Management on Safety and Health at Work (in Greek). No 3592, 05/04/2002. Entry into force: 1 January 2003. Available at: [16] Unofficial translation into English. Available at: [17]
  17. Regulation on Safety Committees (in Greek). No 3145, 24/04/97. Available at: [18]
  18. Safety Organisation – Safety Committees, Manual for Safety Representatives and Members of Safety Committees. Department of Labour Inspectorate, Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance, 2010 (in Greek). Available at: [19]
  19. EWCO – European Working Conditions Observatory (22-10-2010). Cyprus: EWCO comparative analytical report on information, consultation and participation of workers concerning health and safety. Retrieved on 28 February 2013, from: [20]
  20. Personal Communication (February 2013) with the Department of Labour Inspection, Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance. Statistical Data issued by the Department, Retrieved on 8 February 2013, from: [21]
  21. Statistical Service of Cyprus (2003-2013). Retrieved on 8 February 2013: [22]
  22. EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER) – Managing safety and health at work, 2010, Available at: [23]
  23. EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER) – Managing safety and health at work, 2010, Available at: [24]

Links for further reading

EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (no date). Cyprus Focal Point of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. Retrieved on 18 May 2012, from: [25]

EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER): Managing safety and health at work, European Risk Observatory Report, 2010. Available at: [26]

EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Worker representation and consultation on health and safety: An analysis of the findings of the European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER), 2012, Available at:[27]

EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Healthy Workplaces Campaign 2012-13 – Working together for risk prevention, 2012, [28]

Eurofound – European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Health and safety at work in SMEs: Strategies for employee information and consultation, 2010. Retrieved 25 November 2012, from: [29]

Eurofound – European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Social dialogue and working conditions, 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2012, from: [30]

Eurofound - European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Workplace employee representation in Europe, 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2012, from: [31]