The loss of life at work is not compensated

Sixteen Kosovar workers have died in their workplace during the past two years. Seven Kosovars were buried during this year after they died in their workplace. Besides the wreaths of flowers, no other compensation was made for their families. This is not foreseen even in the law.

Although since 2003, Kosovo has adopted the Law for Safety and Protection of Workers' Health in the Work Environment (amended in 2013, now called The Law for Safety and Health at Work), the loss of life in the workplace has been inevitable. “The purpose of this law is to define measures for improving the level of safety and health of employees at work. This law contains general principles on prevention of professional risks, to eliminate the factors of risks and accidents, information, consultation, balanced participation in the improvement of health and safety at work, training of employees, their representatives and general instructions for the implementation of these principles", is stated in article 1 of this law. However, it has not been enough to prevent the death of many workers.

This law provides that an injured employee should be supported materially, as noted in article 2.1. “The employer is responsible for creating safe and healthy working conditions in all aspects of work. 2. The employer is obliged to cover all expenses for the treatment of employees who have suffered injury at work or professional disease, if it is not ensured in any insurance company in terms of employee’s health”.

But no article of this law mentions even remotely the compensation for families who lost their family member as a result of an accident in the workplace. Families who lost a member in the workplace usually face very hard times, they are in poor social conditions.

F.B., who lives in Novoselle, tells us of such a story. Her husband died 15 years ago and she is raising four children only by her handmade craft, without any other sources of income.

F. tells us that financial needs of her for children are high, but income is very limited. The situation became difficult after her husband died. “He worked in forestry in Peja (as a forestry technician). He died in an accident in the mountains, where he went to check the soil; returning from the forest, he had an accident. The public institutions never help us materially, even though the Forestry Enterprise is a public body. We’d expect that at least institutions would respect the law”. F. says that she requested compensation, and she has brought the case to court in 2001, but her case is just being dragged and prolonged for no apparent reason.

Miradije Gashi, executive director of the NGO "Venera", says she is aware of many cases where families of workers who have lost their lives in the workplace are not compensated. "Their families continue to face economic problems, and the courts just keep their cases open for many years." In the case of F.B., she says that the justification was that the Forestry Enterprise was privatized since then, but according to her, this is not true.

Gashi says that other cases as well are being dealt with in the same way. She clarifies that families of forestry technicians that lost their life while on duty ought to be compensated by the enterprise with trees (trunks) that are confiscated because illegally cut. “This never happened. This family and others never received the trees they were supposed to”, following Gashi.

The President of the private sector union, Jusuf Azemi, said that injuries of workers at work is regulated by law, and it foresees that a committee should be called to assess the damage caused to the employee and assign the appropriate amount of compensation.

In cases when the employee dies at work, Azemi thinks that they should be compensated. "This should also take into account the family’s troubles and grief. When the children are unable to work (underage), the family should be supported materially for a longer period of time ", says Azemi as he calls all the families who have not received compensation to report the incident to the unions of the public and private sector, without distinction.

The Labour Inspectorate of Kosovo reports that in Kosovo during 2014, 9 workers died in their workplace; by the end of October 2015, 7 employees died in their workplace. "Law No.04/L-161 on Safety and Health at Work doesn’t establish any compensation for employees who lose their lives at work, consequently neither do their families, but it only determines the compensation for the costs of treatment for injured workers, specifically in paragraph 2 of Article 5 of the Law", reads the Inspectorate’s statement. The Labour Inspectorate, as a supervisory body of the law, indicates that it has no jurisdiction for seeking compensation for the ones who died in the workplace, nor has any information on further proceedings in such cases. "In case of non-compliance of the former employer, families should follow up the compensation procedure with the court", says inspectorate.

 

Anita Kadriu
Pristina, December 2015