18 May, 2017Trade union activists and students held a protest rally in Georgia during the day of public hearings about amendments to the Constitution. Despite pressure from the police, protesters defended their position and demanded that government take health and safety under strict control and establish an effective labour inspectorate.
At midday on 15 May in a concert hall in Tbilisi, the Georgian ruling party ‘Georgian Dream’ conducted public debates about constitutional amendments. There is general concern about the way the debates are currently held in many cities, suggesting that the ruling party is trying to manipulate public opinion rather than receive real feedback about the proposed amendments.
Representatives of the student movement "The Audience 115" and the youth organization of trade unions of Georgia present in the hall demanded a minute of silence in memory of the Tkibuli miners killed during the accident on 9 May.
Among other questions, the young union activists and students asked the chair of the Parliament leading the debates whether the law "On safety and health at workplaces" would be ever adopted and whether Georgia would finally ratify the ILO Convention 176 on Health and Safety in Mines. Previously the article about health and safety labour inspection was removed from the Constitution as part of neoliberal changes aimed to attract foreign investments.
In reply to an awkward and insulting statement from the chair, the youth started chanting and whistling and disrupted the official event.
Two hours later IndustriALL affiliate the Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers of Georgia (TUMMCIWG) and other unions of Georgia, including angry participants of the public debates, gathered in the city and embarked on a protest march to the Parliament building. The police behaved in a provocative manner, blocking the central avenue and trying to provoke physical clashes between people with the aim of arresting them for public disorder.
The protesters managed with difficulty to reach the Parliament building, and repeated the earlier demands.
TUMMCIWG chair, Tamaz Dolaberidze, stated during the rally:
“Now all the responsibility will be with the President of Georgia, Prime Minister of Georgia, chair of Parliament and all members of Parliament for the death of every person at the workplace, because they know exactly how to save people from losing their lives at work, but do nothing”.