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13 November 2015

Trade union inspectors to check compliance with labour law in Geneva

On 13 November the Parliament of the canton of Geneva passed a law creating a Joint Labour Inspectorate (Inspection paritaire de l’emploi – IPE). This law allows trade union representatives to visit businesses in order to check their compliance with labour legislation.

The law creates an inspectorate consisting of 14 inspectors appointed by the trade unions and 14 inspectors appointed by employers’ organisations. In total there will be 24 inspectors on the ground and four inspectors working in the IPE office. Their powers will cover the application of the Labour Law (which contains the main provisions on working time and essential health and safety obligations). The 240 000 employees in the private sector in Geneva will benefit from the work of this new inspectorate.

The trade union inspectors will be activists and union officials. Public funding will enable them to spend part of their time carrying out these inspections, which will give them direct access to workers, businesses and their documents.

For Joël Varone from the main Swiss trade union UNIA, ‘the creation of the IPE is a major victory that will enable the trade unions to access many businesses where trade union rights are currently non-existent’.

The new law runs counter to the trend towards reducing the effectiveness of labour inspectorates that is evident in many European countries. It will increase the number of state inspectors by one-third so that there will be at least one state inspector for every 10 000 workers.

The trade union movement in the canton of Geneva has been campaigning on this issue since 2010. French-speaking Swiss trade unionists sought the assistance of the ETUI for this purpose.

At the end of October, Laurent Vogel, an ETUI researcher, gave a presentation on the labour inspection situation in various European countries and on the European trade union strategy in occupational health during a series of activities organised in Geneva.

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