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Georgian workers demand better safety at work

28 February, 2018According to official statistics, 1,300 deaths and injuries at work happened in Georgia since 2010. Workers, including members of IndustriALL affiliate the Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers of Georgia (TUMMCIWG), protested in Georgia, demanding safer working conditions.

About 2,000 workers from different parts of Georgia marched on 23 February along the central avenue of Tbilisi carrying banners with slogans like "I am a worker who has not died yet. Make labour safe." The protest continued in front of the Parliament building against the new law “On labour safety”, which should enter into force on 1 January 2019.
Since the abolition of labour inspection in 2006 by the Georgian government, workers have been exposed to high levels of risk at work. According to the statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 359 workers died and another 947 were injured in the last 11 years in a country with a population of 3.7 million. These appalling figures are most likely lower than the actual figures, according to Georgian trade unions.
The draft labour law proposed to Parliament in February 2018 provides stricter safety regulations, however these only apply to workplaces with particularly dangerous conditions. In addition, it limits the access of labour inspectors to companies, giving them the right to carry out scheduled inspections once a year only. In the case of unscheduled control, experts will have to appeal to court, which requires additional time and prevents an immediate response to violations. According to TUMMCIWG, the low financial penalties do not correspond to the gravity of the violations, and will have no effect.
Participants at the latest action demanded that the government adopt a draft labour law prepared by the Georgian Trade Unions Confederation.

Tamaz Dolaberidze, president of the TUMMCIWG, stated,

“The government has not considered recommendations proposed by the unions. The law “On labour safety” and the labour inspectorate, if adopted on this basis, will not improve the difficult situation in health and safety. Georgian trade unions intend to fight until an improvement to the law is achieved.”

In the past, the trade unions have conducted a number of mass protest rallies in a bid to attract public attention to the bad health and safety record of the country. The last protest took place in May 2017.
IndustriALL Global Union calls on affiliates to support the LabourStart campaign launched by Georgian trade unions and join their demands to adopt truly effective labour inspection legislation in accordance with the international labour standards.

Vadim Borisov, IndustriALL regional secretary, commented,

''Georgia is trying to integrate its economy with the European Union. However, working safety standards in Georgia must be also at the EU level. Workers must not lose their lives so that Georgia becomes more attractive to business. IndustriALL is urging the government of Georgia to listen to the recommendations of working people, expressed by the trade unions''.