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Georgia: from organizing to collective bargaining

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15 July, 2016IndustriALL Global Union has shifted the focus of its organizing project in Georgia to collective bargaining and collective agreements in response to the needs of its affiliate in the country. 

"We have learned to organize and strike; now we need to learn to bargain efficiently,” said trade union activists during the strike at the Ksani Glass Container Factory (JSC "Mina") in February 2016.

The organizing project in Georgia continues for a third year and is run by IndustriALL with the support of its Norwegian affiliate Industri Energi. Previously, workshop participants were trained in organizing methods, including campaigns, actions and strikes.

However, the new project workshops, that took place from 4-9 July in Kobuleti, focused on collective bargaining issues. The two three-day workshops were attended by 40 activists of IndustriALL affiliate, the Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers of Georgia (TUMMCIWG), with the participation of Ole-Kristian Paulsen, Industri Energi’s international advisor, and Stanislaw Cieniuch, Solidarity Center Georgia programme director. Eduard Vokhmin, trade union trainer, facilitated the workshops.

The workshops revealed that one of the reasons for the lack of the union membership growth is the sometimes unreasonable hostility towards employers from trade union leaders. Most employees do not wish to be in a constant conflict with employers, and it puts them off joining a union. At the same time, the union has workers’ support and not just union members but also many other workers that participate in strike action. This realization enabled the participants to take a fresh look at the situation at their workplaces, and see more ways of peaceful interaction with employers and using collective bargaining and collective agreements as tools to attract new union members.

Years of tough confrontation between unions, employers and the state have in the past always been to the benefit of employer. Consequently, union activists have been perceived as the enemy of employers rather than a social partner. Now that the Georgian state has distanced itself from intervening in collective labour disputes and conflicts, unions have greater capacity to deal with labour issues in negotiations with the employers, especially now that employers have finally recognized unions and expressed their readiness for social dialogue.

According to IndustriALL’s regional secretary, Vadim Borisov, future organizing project workshops will focus on collective agreements, as well as preparing for and conducting collective bargaining.