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Georgian workers demand justice

2 September, 2015After a destructive neo-liberal period in the 2000s, the new Georgian government has introduced some improvements on workers’ rights, but there is still a long road ahead. IndustriALL’s leadership recently visited the country to support the active campaigns of its three affiliates and the Georgian Trade Union Confederation (GTUC) on organizing, collective bargaining and health and safety.

The visit follows discussions on Georgia at IndustriALL’s Executive Committee meeting in May 2015. General secretary Jyrki Raina and assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan visited the country at the end of August to deliver a strong message of solidarity and support to the vibrant union movement.

The new labour code from 2013 includes a chapter on freedom of association and provisions prohibiting discrimination based on trade union affiliation. However participants in an organizing project in partnership with Norwegian IndustriALL affiliate IndustriEnergi told of numerous employers who actively intimidate workers, trying to persuade them not to join a union.

One of the most outrageous recent examples comes from the town of Kazreti, where 1,000 workers employed by RMG Mining Company were coerced in one-on-one interviews to leave the union. IndustriALL is demanding urgent measures from the Georgian government to guarantee true freedom of association.

The new law promotes collective bargaining in good faith, as well as mediation as a mandatory part of dispute resolution. However signing collective agreements still proves to be tough.

The right to strike has been limited in sectors such as electric power, oil and gas.

Health and safety conditions require urgent improvement. According to official statistics, on the average 39 employees died and 70 workers were seriously injured every year during the past eight years.

Speaking to Georgian media, IndustriALL’s general secretary Jyrki Raina said:

IndustriALL joins the Georgian union campaign to ratify ILO Conventions 155 on Occupational Safety and Health and 176 on Safety and Health in Mines, and to take urgent measures to guarantee the health and safety of workers.

Despite some improvements in the law, 48-hour working weeks have become the new normal instead of the 40 hours which were supposed to be the regular working time. The GTUC has appealed to the Constitutional Court to annul this provision. The code also enables precarious work in the form of renewed temporary contracts up to 30 months.

Georgia is one of a few countries without labour inspection. IndustriALL supports the demand of the unions to ratify ILO Convention 81 on Labour Inspections and to set up a proper enforcement mechanism of labour legislation.

IndustriALL’s mission, including regional secretary Vadim Borisov, visited the bottling factory JSC,,MINA”, a subsidiary of Turkish glass giant Sisecam. The majority of MINA workers have joined IndustriALL affiliate Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers of Georgia.

“Most Sisecam plants in different countries are organized by IndustriALL affiliates with constructive labour relations. We look forward to the signing of a first-ever collective agreement between MINA and our affiliate in the near future. This will become an example of well-functioning industrial relations”, concluded Jyrki Raina.