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2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Georgia

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Georgia, 9 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c4fec7a28.html [accessed 1 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 4,300,000
Capital: Tbilisi
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Courts do not apply laws that prohibit anti-union discrimination. Three anti-union dismissals and more cases of anti-union harassment took place during the year. The Labour Code is not conducive to trade unions activities and undermines collective bargaining.

Trade union rights in law

While the Constitution and the 1997 Law on Trade Unions recognise basic trade union rights, union activities are hampered by vast employers' freedoms. The minimum membership required to create a new union is set at an inordinate 100, and where a union is already operating, it can be suspended by a court decision for reasons such as causing a social conflict. The 2006 Labour Code vests employers with the right to dismiss a worker without any reason, provided that compensation equivalent to one month's salary is paid. The Labour Code also gives the employers the right to bypass a functioning trade union and bargain directly with non-unionised workers, to refuse altogether to engage in collective bargaining, and even to decide unilaterally on certain issues that should normally be subject to bargaining. The right to strike is also limited, as all strikes must be preceded by a warning strike while the right to solidarity strikes is not guaranteed. Furthermore, no strike may exceed 90 days, and violating the rules on strikes can cost the organisers up to two years in prison.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Labour Code reforms still ongoing: In 2006, the government pushed through a major reform of the Labour Code, increasing flexibility to the point at which workers were left with virtually no protection. Not only did the reform have a negative impact on collective bargaining, it also eliminated any government consultation with trade unions regarding dismissals and gutted labour inspection. The reform was so far-reaching that even the major employers' associations raised some concern. In 2009, a tripartite process was initiated with the assistance of the ILO to rectify parts of the Labour Code, including provisions on discrimination in employment and recruiting. However, the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia vigorously and publicly opposed the reforms, and issued a statement on 20 October denouncing the changes as unfair to business.

Dismissals in the education sector: On 30 June, deputy directors of Niqozi public school in the town of Gori, N. Kakhiashvili and T. Meshvilidishvili, were summarily dismissed in connection with their trade union activities. The two deputy directors refused to relinquish their Educators' and Scientists' Free Trade Union of Georgia (ESFTUG) membership and took part in a trade union forum. The school director considered this a breach of professional duties and dismissed them without severance pay. Another ESFTUG activist, M. Maraneli, was dismissed on 8 July, and the chairwoman of the local ESFTUG committee, C. Javakhishvili, received an official warning for her trade union activities. The school director, Mr. Tamaz Melanishvili, has been harassing members of ESFTUG since his appointment in May 2008.

Georgian Post undermines union and workers' rights: On 10 July, 30 employees at the head office of state-owned Georgian Post were forced by management to sign a statement relinquishing their membership of the Communication Workers' Trade Union of Georgia (CWTU). The trade union was also deprived of its office, the company collective agreement was ignored and the accounting department withheld 30,000 Georgian Lari (over 12,000 EUR) worth of union dues, allegedly using the money to patch up the company budget. Georgian Post has been associated with serious violations of workers' rights: the salaries of 1,500 employees were systematically delayed, and by September the company reportedly owed its workers nearly 360,000 EUR. Most of the staff is employed on short-term contracts of between one and three months.

LTD Geosteel – no co-operation, judge prevents a former employee from representing the union: On 12 October, in the city of Rustavi, the court rejected a trade union's lawsuit against LTD Geosteel considering that the head of the company trade union was not employed by the company at the time of submission. The trade union leader, Malkhaz Axalaia, who lost his job at Geosteel in 2008, was not allowed to enter the company premises or to meet with the union members. The trade union's lawsuit requested that the company start the collective bargaining process and create adequate conditions for the union to function. Considering that Georgian law does not limit the right to be elected to a trade union post to individuals employed in the relevant company, the trade union submitted an appeal to the Tbilisi City Court. No judgement had been issued by the time of writing.

Yellow Trade Unions in the Education Sector: Since the adoption of the Labour Code, the Ministry of Education and Science has been reluctant to engage in collective bargaining with the representative Educators' and Scientists' Free Trade Union of Georgia (ESFTUG), and since 2008 has been favouring the Professional Education Syndicate (PES), which is perceived as a government-controlled organisation (see Annual Survey 2009). PES is invited by the authorities to the meetings between education professionals and representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science, even if the employees in question are not PES members. PES has also written to all 72 county executives in Georgia (the executives are personally appointed by the President of Georgia), instructing them to stop transferring union dues on behalf of ESFTUG members working in county-funded kindergartens. So far, only one county has stopped the transfers. The Georgian Trade Union Confederation (GTUC) intervened to draw the executives' attention to the legal protection of the check-off facility.

Georgian State Electrosystems: no justice for the shop steward: The 2009 edition of the Survey reported that Dali Aduashvili, a shop steward at Georgian State Electrosystems, lost her job after she had called for social dialogue and collective bargaining. She challenged the dismissal in court, but her lawsuit was rejected on all counts. In December 2009, trade union lawyers were preparing a submission to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge the anti-union discrimination.

BMT Textile: Activists not reinstated: Nine women who founded a trade union in the BMT Textile company (Autonomous Republic of Adjara) in 2008 and were dismissed without any explanation (see 2009 issue of the Survey), still remain unemployed. The Khelvachauri city court rejected their claim for reinstatement and compensation for their involuntary absence from work. As of December 2009, the case was being reviewed at Kutaisi City Court of Second Instance. The anti-union climate described in the 2009 edition of the Survey has not improved: trade unions are still not allowed to function inside the company, and can only rally on the streets.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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