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Georgian miners continue to struggle

3 March, 2014In Georgia the employees of RMG Gold and RMG Copper have been on strike for nearly three weeks demanding better working conditions, salary increase and reinstatement of 184 fired workers.

The strikers are supported by the majority of the population of Kazreti town, in the district of Bolnisi, Georgia, where both enterprises are located. Teachers, doctors and even children participate in the street protests. Shops and canteens are closed; schools and kindergartens do not operate either.

On 28 February a demonstration in protection of labour rights took place in Tbilisi in front of the Chancellery of the Government of Georgia. Among the participants were the workers of RMG enterprises in Kazreti, the miners from Chiatura, as well as the workers of the nitric and metallurgical plants from Rustavi, firefighters and rescuers. The participants demanded the revision of the Labour Code as workers' rights are constantly violated, and promised that protests would become more large-scale if the Government of Georgia did not follow workers' requirements.

The workers of RMG Gold and RMG Copper, mining enterprises in Georgia, went on strike on 14 February after the management refused to fulfill their obligations according to the agreement signed back in November 2013 and fired more than 180 employees under the pretext of reorganization in January 2014.

In opinion of the Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers of Georgia (TUMMCIWG), an affiliate of IndustriALL, the management was trying to undermine the strike and block collective bargaining. However, the only management achievement is that now on top of the earlier demands the workers also demand the reinstatement of all workers fired as part of the announced reorganization.

The strike paralyzed the life of Kazreti, where the income of the population largely depends on employment at the RMG Gold and RMG Copper enterprises. The strike developed into daily street protests, and the majority of Kazreti population participates - not only employees of the RMG Gold and RMG Copper enterprises, but also doctors, teachers, school students, members of strikers' families - in total about four thousand inhabitants of Kazreti. On 22 February six workers went on hunger strike; two days later one of them was taken to the hospital. On 25 February the employees of an office building - laboratory workers and the technical personnel - joined workers on strike. Strikebreakers continue to work at the enterprises.

Negotiations between the management and the strikers took place on 26 February, but they did not bring notable results. The management of the enterprises is ready to reinstate around 40 dismissed workers; however, other fired workers might be reinstated only after the operation of the enterprises will be increased. This doesn't conform to the requirements of the strikers; they state that the strike and the street protests will go on until all their demands are completely fulfilled, and all management's promises are confirmed by the relevant documents.

The key demands of the strikers include salary increase, better working conditions and better labour safety, improved health insurance conditions and reinstatement of 184 workers.

Back in November 2013 around 700 miners of RMG Gold and RMG Copper went on strike demanding better working conditions and a salary increase. As a result an agreement was signed between the parties on 23 November 2013; however, until now promises of the management were not kept.

Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union says:

Georgian miners demonstrate an exemplary struggle over last couple of months, even under very hard anti-labor environment. IndustriALL Global Union will continue to give all support to this heroic fight”.