On the right to refuse work
A right is something you have a moral or legal right to do or have. Employees do not automatically enjoy the legal right to refuse or close unsafe work in all jurisdictions or in all circumstances. However, we always have the moral right to reject or close unsafe work. In severe circumstances, we believe that not only do we have the right to reject or close unsafe work, but we must do so as well.
Our problems arise when the exercise of that right is not protected from retaliation by an employer such as the Guyana Oil Company Limited. Note that wherever workers enjoy the legal right to refuse work, either in national laws, or collective bargaining agreements, it has always followed employee executive and requirements; never preceded it.
We are rarely given our rights freely we must insist on and fight for them.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3, states “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the protection of a person.”
It does not specify that these rights disappear when you go to work. Indeed, the right to favorable working conditions is also mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Another UN document, the international covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, provides that everyone should have the right to safe and healthy working conditions.
However, the most important reference to the right to refuse unsafe work comes from the International Labor Organization (ILO), a specialized United Nations Agency dealing with International Labor Standards.
The ILO has several Conventions and Recommendations that mention the right to reject unsafe work. The most significant of these is convention 155, Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981.
155 States Convention (quotations):
“Article 4 (1) Every Member must, in the light of national conditions and practices, and consult with the most representative organizations of employers and employees, formulate, implement and review a coherent national policy on occupational safety, occupational health and periodic working . Environment.
(2). The aim of the policy will be to prevent accidents and injuries to health arising from, associated with or occurring in the course of work, by reducing, as far as is reasonably practicable, the causes of hazards inherent in the work environment. ”
“Article 5 (e) Protecting employees and their representatives from disciplinary measures as a result of actions taken by them duly to comply with the policy referred to in Article 4 of this convention”.
“Article 13. An employee who has removed himself from a work situation which he / she has reasonably justified to believe is imminent danger to his life or health will be protected from undue consequences following national conditions and practice.”
“Article 19. Arrangements shall be at the level of the undertaking … (f) an employee immediately reports to his immediate supervisor any situation which he has reasonably justified in believing is posing a serious and serious danger to his life. or health; until the employer has taken remedial action, if necessary, the employer cannot require employees to return to a work situation where there is a continuing and serious risk to life or health. ”
In simple language, this states that in the context of national law, employees can, with reasonable justification, remove themselves from unsafe work and not return until the employer has rectified the situation, and if they have exercised this right in good faith they cannot suffer undue consequences.
Other ILO conventions also refer to this right. For example, Convention 176 of the Convention on Safety and Health in Mines, 1995; Recommendation 183 on Safety and Health in Mines 1995; Recommendation 172 on Asbestos, 1986 and Recommendation 177 on chemicals, 1990.
ILO conventions have legal status when ratified, but our government may have ratified these conventions. However, ILO Convention Recommendations and ILO Recommendations can sometimes be referred to as part of International best practice even in countries that have not ratified the relevant convention.
Guyana Oil Company Limited violates and violates the Occupational Safety and Health Act No. 32 of 1997. Once reconstituted, the Occupational Safety and Health committee excludes the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union which represents 90% of employees of Guyana Oil Company Limited.
“Section (22) (5) A safety and health representative shall be selected by those employees who do not exercise management functions and who will be represented by the workplace safety and health representative, or the part. Or parts of it, as the case may be. ”
“Section (22) (6) Where a trade union or trade unions represent the workers referred to in subsection (5), a majority of such employees may delegate the selection of a safety and health representative to the trade union or craft. unions. ”
“Section (23) (8) Committee members who represent employees are selected by the employees who do not exercise management functions and who will be represented by those committee members in the workplace or the part or parts of it, as the case may be. ”
“Section (23) (9) Where a trade union or trade unions represent the employees referred to in subsection (8), a majority of delegated members of such employees may choose the members of a committee referred to in subsection (8). to the trade union or trade unions. ”
The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Many collective bargaining agreements refer to the right to refuse or close unsafe work. When there is disagreement in the interpretation of labor law or collective agreements between employer and employee, the general rule is to comply now and mourn later. This advice protects the employee from immediate discipline or release, on the belief that if a labor arbitrator or judge later rules in the employee’s favor, appropriate remedy may be used. Lost wages can be repaid, workers can be restored to their deserving jobs, untruths can be compensated.
However, in the case of occupational Health and Safety, this general rule cannot apply.
There is no remedy that an arbitrator can impose that, if lost, will restore life or health.
The law or CBA does not automatically guarantee the right to refuse or close unsafe or unhealthy work. Like all human rights, we assert our moral authority when we demand it. It is a right that we must win, lose, along with our health or life.
That’s what the Clerical and Commercial Workers’ Union (CCWU) means we say “Guyoil workers have the right to refuse unsafe work”.
Clerical and Commercial Workers Union