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3,700 mine workers under threat in Georgia

20 January, 2016An IndustriALL Global Union affiliate in Georgia has launched a campaign in support of 3,700 workers at a manganese ore mine, following news that the mine will be shut down for four months.

On 11 January, mining company Georgian Manganese LLC informed workers at its Chiatura Manganese Mine that it would stop extraction from 20 January until 20 May 2016 due to a decrease in the market price of manganese.

The management has promised workers 60 per cent of their salary, medical insurance during the four-month downtime and says it will pay interest on loans for those workers who had one.

However, in return the company is forcing workers to immediately sign, without the chance to consult their lawyers, an additional agreement that amends the essential terms of their employment contract and deprives the majority of miners of their right to paid leave in 2016.

Local unionists and the union leadership have challenged the managerial decision to shut down mining operations for four months. IndustriALL affiliate, the Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers of Georgia (TUMMCIWG) is demanding that the government intervenes and guarantees that the company returns to normal operations in May, without the loss of any jobs - even if this would require the Chiatura Manganese Mine to be nationalized.

The TUMMCIWG has also suggested that the government considered exemption of Chiatura miners from the obligation to pay personal income tax within this period, and that the government paid compensation to the amount of 40 percent  of miners’ salaries to make up for the loss in their salary.  The average salary at the Chiatura Manganese Mine is low and only reaches 600 Georgian Lari (US$250) a month. The four-month shutdown will make the miners even poorer.

As the occupational safety is one of the major problems at the Chiatura Manganese Mine, and all existing safety issues could be eliminated during the temporary mine closure, the TUMMCIWG is demanding that an Action Plan on occupational safety was put in place and all health and safety issues were solved in full by May 2016.

The TUMMCIWG members at other Georgian enterprises and the Georgian Trade Unions Confederation have expressed solidarity with Chiatura miner’s demands. A campaign has been launched on social media with pictures of people holding posters with demands and solidarity messages.

Georgian Manganese LLC is a subsidiary of the Georgian American Alloys, Inc., headquartered in Miami, FL and affiliated to the Privat Group, a global business group based in Ukraine.