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Proposed law aims to reduce workplace harassment

REPOST ARTICLE SOURCE: http://www.setimes.com/cocoon/setimes/xhtml/en_GB/features/setimes/features/2012/12/08/feature-02

In an effort to halt psychological harassment in the workplace, the Macedonian government is considering a new law to protect workers.The law would provide legal options to victims of such harassment — known as mobbing — and would subject companies to material damages, said Maja Ristova, an anti-mobbing trainer with the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia, which has lobbied the government to act.

According to a survey of 510 workers by the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia, 41 percent said they were the victims of mobbing, 40 percent said they suffer health problems as a result and 30 percent said they experience workplace pressures due to their political affiliations. With the unemployment rate at 33 percent, many harassed workers remain silent.

“Macedonia faces this problem due to incompletely regulated legislation,” Ristova told SETimes. “We are aware that the labour market here is unbalanced, that is, the [available] workforce exceeds demand, thus resulting in a high rate of unemployment. This means that the victim of mobbing, fearing the loss of his or her job, decides to keep quiet and tolerate this.”

The draft law requires fines of 5,000 to 20,000 euros for people found guilty of mobbing. The fines are higher if the guilty person is a manager. The law is expected to be enacted by March.

“This will provide more protection, but also more motivation of the employee for work, creativity and productivity,” Aleksandar Gjorgjiev, a Macedonian government spokesperson, told SETimes. “The law will help achieve harmony in the acting of an employer and an employee, but also between employees, themselves, toward accomplishing common goals and interests.”

The Federation of Trade Unions said it receives dozens of calls from people complaining of “psychological pressure in the workplace.”

Since 2009, 30 cases of mobbing have been registered in Macedonia.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights has received 65 mobbing complaints this year, up from 43 last year and 32 in 2010. Officials say the increase is due to a promotional campaign to raise awareness of the law prohibiting discrimination. The ombudsman’s office said the actual number of incidents is higher, but victims don’t report it because they fear losing their jobs.

“In 2011, the ombudsman office issued seven recommendations in favor of employees who were emotionally abused in the workplace,” Predrag Raosavljevic, head of anti-discrimination efforts in the ombudsman office told SETimes. “In many cases, the employer’s behavior was changed after they were warned from the ombudsman institution.”

Earlier this year, a BiH court issued its first ruling in a mobbing case, finding a fire department chief in Prijedor guilty of harassment, humiliation and degradation of a firefighter who was fired without legal reason. The firefighter was allowed to return to work and the fire chief was sentenced to pay a 950 euro fine.

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