“Who is the Boss?” – The ILO Launch a discussion on subcontracting in mining based on TEPAV Study

TEPAV STUDY 1With the disastrous events in the mining industry last year in fresh recollection, stakeholders met in Ankara to have a first round of discussions on the contractual arrangements in Turkey’s coal mines on the basis of a draft study prepared by the Economic Policy and Research Foundation (TEPAV). Forty participants, including representatives from the ministries, the labour inspectorate, the industry and the social partners had a first round of discussions in a meeting hosted by the ILO Office for Turkey in Ankara. A subsequent meeting is to be held later in the fall.

A first stakeholders meeting, with high level representation not only from the Government, the mining industry and the social partners but also from the ILO in Geneva, was held in Ankara on 25 August 2015. The study which was the basis for the discussion had been commissioned by the ILO in the context of its ongoing technical assistance project in Turkey on “Improving Occupational Health and Safety in Turkey through Compliance with International Labour Standards.

By way of introduction, the Deputy Regional Director, Europe and Central Asia,  Ms. Rie Vejs-Kjeldgaard emphasized that subcontracting and its implications for the social dimension of the world of work was important not only for Turkey but for many other countries in the world. She also emphasized the international dimension as Turkey was a party to central ILO Conventions such as the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155) and recently had ratified the Safety and Health in Mines Convention, 1995 (No. 176). The Sectoral Specialist Martin Hahn emphasized, inter alia, the need to ensure continued social dialogue in the mining industry, while the Senior Labour Inspection Specialist, Maria Luz Vega underscored the need to support and improve the labour inspection system.

In his presentation of the study, the Director of TEPAV, Dr. Guven Sak set the stage by focusing the discussion on a central issue “Who is the boss?” This question was triggered by the fact that mining in Turkey was governed by two sets of national laws and regulations which were under the responsibility of two separate ministries. The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources was responsible for the exploitation of Turkey’s natural resources and the application and implementation of the Mining Law of 1985, while occupational safety and health (OSH) and the OSH Law of 2012 was the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. The issue was raised whether it would be beneficial for the industry from all relevant points of view to rethink the existing separation of responsibilities and move towards a joint mining institution.

The discussion also addressed the contractual arrangements in the industry. The fact that all mines were owned by the State and could not be subject to private ownership had caused the development of a practice to use a leasing system – the “rödövans” system – which had enabled involvement of private investors in the industry. These systems were legally distinct and served different purposes but there was evidence in practice of misuses, such as situations where agreements labeled as rödövans agreements had in fact constituted other types of arrangements including subcontracting arrangements. While the full impact of this practice in the industry was difficult to ascertain, it was clear that it had the effect of blurring the lines of responsibility. This had, inter alia, significant consequences for the implementation of national OSH laws and regulations.

The preliminary findings of the study triggered an animated discussion regarding the relative importance and the interplay of the economic, legal and regulatory structures as well as a future, ideal structure for managing the coal mining industry to improve the OSH conditions.  It was agreed to complement the study with further research into the question of the licensing procedures and to pursue the discussions in the context of a second meeting later in the fall.