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Georgian coal miners end protest over unpaid wages

27 September, 2019The situation of Tkibuli coalminers was been heard at the top national level. The prime minister of the country ordered the Minister of the Economy to visit the site and find a solution to the appalling situation of wage arrears.

The Minister visited Tkibuli on 26 September and organized an urgent meeting with different parties involved in the conflict including representatives of the employer, local authorities and trade union representatives and miners.

The strike started in the morning on 24 September when some 30 miners occupied the Mindeli and Dzidziguri mines in Tkibuli in sign of protest against their unpaid wages. Other miners joined their protest outside. One day before the start of the protest coalminers sent an open letter to the prime minister of the country complaining about wage arrears and the dire situation workers and their families are facing. Workers also complained about lack of information about their future and whether the mines would be re-opened by the owner of the mines Georgian Industrial Group.

The work of the mines was suspended since July 2018 and workers were sent on involuntary paid leave, after a number of incidents including fatal due to poor health and safety. In 2017–2018, 17 workers lost their lives in the mines.

Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical industry workers of Georgia, an IndustriALL affiliate, played a key role in voicing workers’ interests. The union strongly criticized the owner of the mines putting workers in front of an impossible choice of dying inside the mines or starving outside due to the lack of work. 

As a result of the negotiations, the following agreement was concluded :

  • By 26-27 September the company assets will be transferred to another company, which will pay the overdue salaries to the workers by the end of September.
  • In October, labour protection regulations and an additional investment document about necessary re-equipment will be presented.
  • Coal mining will restart in November, and over a two year period, after the completion of the preliminary works, production from 300,000 tons will increase to 550,000 tons.
  • the new company will inherit all financial obligations towards family members of the dead and injured in the mine.
  • labour and production processes at the Tkibuli mines will be regulated in close communication with the trade union and a collective agreement will be concluded.

After consultation coalminers agreed to the proposed agreement and stopped the protest. The workers underlined that the full implementation of the agreement was only possible through the involvement of their trade union. 

Tamaz Dolaberidze, president of the Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical industry workers of Georgia, commented,

During their protest coalminers received a wide solidarity support from their colleagues inside and outside the country. Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical industry workers of Georgia extends their gratitude for the expressed solidarity and support."