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Georgian chemical workers win better conditions after strike

7 May, 2021Around 2,000 workers at Rustavi Azot, a mineral fertilizer producer in Georgia, have won a substantial wage increase after a week-long strike.

The workers went on strike on 27 April, demanding a pay rise. More than 500 workers blocked transportation from entering or leaving the factory. Three days later, all operations were put on hold.  

Even though company profits have grown, workers’ salaries have stagnated. Between 2016 and 2020, consumer prices in Georgia increased by an average of 27 per cent, while the workers received only one rise in 2019.  The average monthly wage in the company is around 750 GEL (220US$), one of the lowest in the sector.

Following a change of management in 2017, labour relations at Rustavi Azot have been tense, particularly after 350 workers were dismissed. In 2018, 56 of the dismissed workers were reinstated following a court ruling.

The workers went back to work on 3 May, after IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers of Georgia (TUMMCIWG) found an agreement with management on wage increase of 250 GEL (72US$) for workers earning less than 1,000 GEL (290US$), and 125 GEL (36US$) for those earning more than 1,000 GEL.

The company also offered an Easter pay-out and promised not to deduct the days of strike from the workers’ wages.

The company has also accepted negotiations with union representatives on annual remuneration covering inflation, improvement of working conditions and social benefits and medical insurance package. 

The company has committed not to retaliate against workers who participated in the strike and to respect freedom of association in the workplace. As a result, 500 new members have joined TUMMCIWG, who will represent the collective interests of workers in further negotiations.

Tamaz Dolaberidze, president of TUMMCIWG, said:

“We thank everyone who supported the strike, including the Rustavi Majoritarian Representation of the Parliament of Georgia, the City Hall and the Kvemo Kartli regional administration. We expect that the company management will continue the collective bargaining in the same constructive way as at the end of the strike.”

JSC Rustavi Azot produces up to 1 per cent of the world’s total ammonium nitrate consumption.