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Union campaign brings improvements to Georgian labour law

7 October, 2020After fighting for amendments to the labour code, Georgian unions’ campaign bore results on 29 September when Parliament voted for improvements related to labour inspections, mandatory rest time and anti-discrimination.

The 2014 EU-Georgia Association Agreement introduced a preferential trade regime for Georgia and set a list of priorities to ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. These include bringing the Labour Code further in line with ILO standards and defining supervision functions of labour inspections and remove existing restrictions to inspectors’ responsibilities.

Georgia’s parliament has approved a number of amendments to the labour law, the major one is changes in the expansion of the labour inspection mandate.

Until now, labour inspections only checked violations of occupational safety and needed to give prior warning or a court order to have access.

That requirement is removed with the changes, and labour inspections will oversee all labour rights in Georgia, identify violations, warn and fine employers, or in some cases temporarily suspend workplaces over poorly implemented labour rights, and will come into effect on 1 January 2021.

Further approved amendments to the Labour Code include new provisions on anti-discrimination and gender equality, mandatory daily and weekly rest time, better protection for interns, part-time workers, pregnant women and new mothers.

Tamaz Dolaberidze, president of the Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers of Georgia, says:

“The amendments define the concept of a company transfer to a new owner and prohibit the restriction of workers' rights during such transfer; all employment contracts remain valid, and a collective agreement shall remain in force for at least one year.”

Despite many positive amendments that will improve labour rights in Georgia, some of the unions’ proposals were removed after corporate pressure, like the proposal to set an overtime rate at 125 per cent and the right for workers to hold strikes in solidarity with workers from other companies. The law still does not define the concept and amount of a minimum wage.

Amiran Zenaishvili, president of the Georgian Trade Union of Energy Workers, says:

“The amendments provide an opportunity for a minor under the age of 14 to work, but the number of working hours has not been set. There is a lack of clear grounds for termination of employment, as the labour code has a wording “on other objective circumstance.”

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, says:

“IndustriALL welcome the positive amendments to the Georgian labour law and congratulate unions and workers on this achievement. It is important to ensure the changes are implemented, and that work continues on further improvements, including a minimum wage, to bring workers’ rights in Georgia further in line with core ILO standards.”