By Prof. Dr. A. Gurhan Fisek*
* Ankara University, the Faculty of Political Sciences – the Department of Labour Economics and Industrial Relations
The Unique Place of SII (Social Insurance Institution) within the Social Security Institutions:
Social Insurance Institution (Worker’s Insurance Institution at first) has a very exceptional place concerning the socio-political history of our country. It has been constituted by the accumulation of thousands of people paying premiums or working with great effort. The primary precondition for the sustenance of such a system is the debt of loyalty that the institution feels towards the labour elements nourishing itself. This appears, at the same time, as the assurance of “loyalty” for the next coming generations who would take over this responsibility.
Therefore, if SII does not show that loyalty either towards its employees or the ones paying their premiums, it would create an impression that the institution is not sincere enough for its own future. This is unacceptable.
Considering the unique conditions of Turkey in 1946’s, the Social Insurance Institution took over the responsibility of providing both insurance services and health services in addition to the services like education, construction and etc., and put them forth as an “integrated” (unified) system. For a long period of time, the state appropriated the “social state” approach “sincerely”, and the institution constituted one of the most significant means of the state. Accordingly, the institution played a key social role beyond the “insurance” approach.
The inspection facilities carried out at workplaces and the “self-defence mechanisms” presented for defending the institution were shaped by this “social” approach to a great extent. This was applicable for the foundation period; and for today, it is still valid.
The Importance of Insurance Inspections within the SII System:
The insurance inspections have a very important place for the institution to perform its “social” functions that we’ve mentioned above. Insurance inspections, which have been defending the “institution and premium payers” all over the country and with great altruism since 1946, the establishment year of the institution, deserves to be shown loyalty as well.
In Turkey, the insurance inspectorate is one of the institutions that has not been heeded enough, and hence not considered important. Unfortunately, both the good-wills of some institutional managers and the endeavours of veteran hands having dedicated themselves to this work have not broken this vicious circle.
Likewise, this vicious circle has been headed towards a desire to lop off the steps taken towards development. Today, we are face to face with the efforts aiming to decrease the status of the Insurance Inspection Committee, which was bound directly to the highest rank of the Social Insurance Institution, to a lower level. This is a critical step.
Apart from the duties of the presidential inspectorate on the protection of the institution, insurance inspectorate is responsible for the protection of both the Institution and the premium payers (employers, employees).
By taking its title into consideration, it is not possible to identify the insurance inspection facilities with the “insurance services” only. Because, it is one of the most significant innovations of the “Social” Insurance Law that it has brought forth the contract requirement signed with an “employer” who is to employ a worker. By signing this contract, employers are held responsible for the performance of some obligations. The “obligation of protecting workers” can be counted among the foremost obligations of employers. Insurance inspectors, on the other hand, are obliged to scrutinise whether employers keep their words that give to the Institution.
Giving a rise to worker-oriented attainments, these works also allow for the differentiation and protection of the employers, who perform the “inconveniences” at the same time with goodwill and who are respectful to the laws, from the ones contrary to these characteristics. In this way, they not only serve for the achievement of social security, but also social justice.
Having been established through the Law No. 506 in order to defend the existence of the Institution, many of the “self-defence mechanisms” are carried out (or will be carried out), unfortunately, only through the efforts of insurance inspectors. Among these, the most important ones are the operation of “rescinding mechanisms” as mentioned in the Articles 26 and 41, and the “persuasive-dissuasive” responsibilities of the institution as mentioned in the Articles 74-75 and 124. Concerning these matters related with the issues like general health and occupational health and safety, it cannot be discarded that obliged persons should be inspected regarding whether they comply with the responsibilities they are held and that the institution should be protected accordingly.
Considering the protection of the Institution, the most evidential proof pointing the significance of these responsibilities (as much as of the functions of the ministry inspectors) is the extent of the losses the Institution becomes exposed to on account of occupational accidents and diseases or chronic and contagious diseases.
The health and safety measures that are to be taken at workplaces are the matters that have been bound by the sanctions like job-entrance and periodic health examinations, trainings on health issues, employment of occupational physicians, and by the relevant labour laws. On that ground, what is expected from the insurance inspectors is their ensuring the sustenance of these significant functions regarding the health and safety in working life.
Furthermore, with respect to the job definition of the responsibilities carried out, these inspectors are held accountable for the duties in regard to the “inspection and improvement” of workplaces as defined by the social insurance laws. Social insurance laws should be taken into consideration together with the “labour laws” as stated, for instance, in the Article 41 of the Social Insurance Law. The labour laws, on the other hand, should comprehend not only the provisions on the operation of jobs, but also the issues on health and occupational health-safety of workers.
Regrettably, the authority of insurance inspectors under consideration, who are, in regard to the occupational health and safety issues, held responsible for the operation of “self-defence mechanisms” at workplaces, has been taken over from them with the recent bill. Despite existing in the Article 15/f of the Statutory Decree No. 616, the responsibility of insurance inspectors “to detect the cases that are in violation of the occupational health and safety of workers at workplaces” has been undervalued this time.
In this way, the institution seems to abolish its protective covering in addition to the right of insured persons to sustain a healthy living.
Similarly, the invalidation of the article that we’ve mentioned above would result in a situation in which these inspectors are to be confined with being involved in social insurance issues only (while their responsibilities on occupational health and safety issues are to be disregarded completely) and they are to perform the responsibilities that are recently assigned for them “defectively”. It is in such a way that they would not be the part of the occupational health and safety dimension of the responsibilities stated in the Article No. 22/a as: “carrying out relevant studies regarding the laws on social security; inspectimg the implementation of these laws”. Since the institution has not any other branch to carry out these studies, the opportunity of the institution to reduce the income losses by means of prevention of accidents and diseases would be abolished as well.
The Importance of Directorate Generals within the SII System:
If one examines the law, s/he realises that the Directorate General of Insurance Affairs is to be turned to after a risk has happened. However, as we’ve tried to define as much as we can, the institution is charged with, both for the institution itself and for the premium payers, the prevention of the occurrence of risks. This duty carries a great significance. Even if it has not been considered that important until so far as it deserves, its entire abolition comes to mean the abolishment of the most sensitive spot of the “social security ideal”.
Beyond any question, the Directorate General of Health Affairs is to play a part in and to be charged with the studies regarding the “prevention of general diseases at workplaces” as well. For instance, occupational inspections have a crucial place in order to monitor whether occupational physicians perform their responsibilities. However, although it is proposed by the law, no inspection organisation is available for performing this function at all. Interestingly, the responsibilities held to the “Department of Health and Disability Operations” are stated differently in the Statutory Decree No. 616 compared with the recent bill:
- The recent bill has untuned the institutional studies regarding “occupational medicines”. The institution, then, has decided to be directed by the related branch of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, rather than its directing the relevant practices and the regulations it needs.
- Here, it can be observed that everything has been done consciously in order to make the institution utilise from the attainments of contemporary “preventive medicine” facilities. Even the inadequate duties have been done away with this time. Therefore, it signifies that the institution is ignorant of a hundred-year-old community medicine practices existing both in the world and in our country.
In point of the Institution, the Results Coming Along with the Involvement of Insurance Inspections within the Directorate General of Insurance Affairs:
The Bill on Social Insurance Institution is the future chain of a process initiated with the Statutory Decree No. 616. This decree has caused the institution to be more fragile regarding health and safety issues, and opened a way for privatisation. Additionally, it has been aimed to abolish the occupational health and safety practices from the standpoint of SII. Not binding the Insurance Inspections to the Directorate General of Health Affairs, hence, is just to serve this objective as well.
When the Insurance Inspection Committee is bound to the Directorate General of Insurance Affairs, the health and safety dimension of the inspection studies carried out at workplaces would disappear; and in this way, the institutional benefits arising as a result of the prevention or evaluation of disease and accidents would be abolished. Therefore, self-defence opportunities of the institution would be suppressed.
It can be observed that the following issues have been sieved out and abandoned with great care due to some unknown reasons: Article 124 of the Law No. 506 that represents one of the most unique characteristics of the same law and that renders preventive health services possible; and the most significant duties of the Insurance Inspection Organisation that allows the organisation to defend the institution and that is related with occupational health and safety problems. This situation causes some of the provisions preconditioned by the Law No. 506 to be got rid of de facto.
Similarly, as compatible with this abandonment, the status of the Insurance Inspection Organisation -which should be bound to the Prime Ministry as the natural requirement of the organisational structuration- has been decreased to a lower rank, that is the level of the General Directorate. It is for sure that this would come to a critical conclusion against the institution.
Both of the two amendment groups should be expiated urgently. Besides, the institution should be equipped with a legal arrangement that is capable of directing the whole organisation consciously for the “prevention of risks”.
Concerning such an organisational structure, an insurance inspection organisation that is to be organised at the level of an Institutional Presidency appears as a great necessity.