Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October 2014, 12:39 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Georgia

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Georgia, 8 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea6620dc.html [accessed 22 October 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

The unchecked ability of employers to terminate employment contracts has made the work of unions very difficult. Courts do not apply laws that prohibit anti-union discrimination. The Labour Code is not conducive to trade union 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 2010

Background: Georgia is on the eleventh place among former Soviet republics in terms of the level of economic development. Economic growth in 2010 was 6%. The average salary is only about USD 318, and the bulk of the population is poor. The economy is supported by substantial external borrowing; external debt reached USD 3.9 billion by the end of 2010.

No protection against anti-union discrimination: Although anti-union discrimination is prohibited in Georgian legislation, courts do not apply these provisions. Under the Labour Code the employer has the right to terminate an employment contract for any or no reason and without giving advance notice. The Law on Trade Unions has not been abrogated and is formally in force, but Article 23 of the Law, which states that employers can dismiss employees elected as chairpersons of trade union organisations only with the consent of the union, is ignored in practice.

Short-term employment contracts widely used: The use of short-term employment contracts is widespread in practice. The Labour Code does not contain any criteria or restrictions to determine under which circumstances a fixed-term contract is permissible.

Labour Code not amended despite ILO recommendations: The Georgian Trade Union Confederation (GTUC) has on several occasions complained to the ILO about violations of freedom of association stemming from the adoption of the 2006 Labour Code. The ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations was very critical of the Georgian Labour Code in its 2007 annual report, as was the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association in March and June 2010. They urged the Government to amend the Labour Code so as to ensure effective protection against anti-union discrimination.

The GTUC worked out a draft with amendments to the Labour Code, collected signatures of more than 100,000 citizens in support of it and presented it to the Parliament of Georgia in 2009. This initiative was ignored and has not been discussed since. Furthermore, the tripartite National Social Dialogue Commission that was established in 2009 with ILO assistance to rectify certain provisions – including on discrimination – in the Labour Code had one meeting. In May 2010 the Minister of Labour stated that an anti-discrimination law would be drafted by the Ministry of Labour itself and only when ready sent to the GTUC. There had been no developments in this regard by the end of the year.

Activists still not reinstated at BTM Textile and Poti Sea Port: After nine newly elected members of the trade union committee at BTM Textile (Autonomous Republic of Adjara) were dismissed in 2008, and after union leaders and activists were dismissed at Poti Sea Port after a strike in 2007 (see the 2009 and 2010 Annual Survey), the Georgian Trade Union Confederation (GTUC) filed a complaint with the ILO CFA (Case No. 2663). The case was discussed on 11 March 2010, and it was clearly concluded that Georgian labour legislation does not provide sufficient protection against anti-union discrimination. After the conclusion of the case, the Prime Minister of Georgia requested the Minister of Health, Labour and Social Affairs of Georgia to carry out an independent inquiry into the matter. Nevertheless, the GTUC have not been made aware of such an investigation nor of any conclusions that were made.

Activists dismissed after organising a union at Geo-steel: In May 2010 up to 400 workers at the Geo-steel metallurgical plant in the city of Rustavi went on strike. In the beginning of June, after the strike had ended, over 100 workers decided to become members of the Metal and Mining Workers' Union (MMWU) and submitted applications for affiliation. On 16 June 2010 Mr. Urushadze, one of the union activists, was informed by the President of the Geo-steel company that his employment contract had been terminated as a result of his organising efforts. The following day five other employees (Manuchar Akhvlediani, Gocha Kratsashvili, Levan Chunashvili, Giorgi Badashvili and Irakli Nikabadze) were dismissed on the same grounds. The activists did not lodge a complaint because their relatives worked in the company and they did not want to jeopardise their jobs. As a result of the dismissals, a local union was not established at the plant, as other workers were also intimidated and afraid to lose their jobs.

Unionists sanctioned at Tbilisi Gynecological Clinic: In July the Director of the Tbilisi Gynecological Clinic unilaterally cut down the duration of the employment contract from five to one year for Mr. Noe Lejav, a local trade union leader, and for Mr. Shalva Kherodinashvili, a trade union activist. The action took place after the employees refused to let the Director of the clinic participate in the creation of a local union in the clinic. The union members also rejected her candidature for the position of chairperson of the union. Mr. Noe Lejava and Mr. Shalva Kherodinashvili filed a complaint with the Tbilisi City Court, and on October 19 the court found that the action of the Director was illegal.

Teachers' union harassed: Since 2008 the Educators' and Scientists' Free Trade Union of Georgia (ESFTUG) has suffered from the Ministry of Education and Science favouring the Professional Education Syndicate (PES) (see the 2009 and 2010 Annual Survey). The Georgian Trade Union Confederation (GTUC) filed a complaint with the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) in 2008 (Case No. 2678), and in June 2010 the CFA requested the Government to re-establish check-off facilities at a few schools, to conduct an independent inquiry into allegations of dismissal in 2008 of eleven workers from Public School No. 1 in the Dedoflisckaro district (see the 2010 Annual Survey) and to amend the Labour Code. GTUC also raised the issue before the National Social Dialogue Commission, and in March 2010 the Georgian Government confirmed its willingness to address the issue. A special commission, with GTUC representative, was established to settle the conflict. Social dialogue with the Ministry of Science has intensified for a while since then, and collective agreements have even been signed in two regions.

However, since June collective agreements on check-off systems were signed with the PES, by instructions from the Minister of Education. ESFTUG members were forced to quit the union and join PES or risk being fired. In Zugdidi (Samegrelo region) almost 1,000 teachers resigned from the ESFTUG during one day alone, and in Kutaisi around 550 teachers left the ESFTUG. The Ministry of Education and Science also tried to promote their candidate to be elected as president of the ESFTUG during the union's Executive Council in October 2010. After the ESFTUG thwarted this attempt, the check-off system re-established shortly before in the regions of Ajara and Samegrelo, was abolished in November by request of the Minister. At the same time the system remained in place for the PES.

In October the ESFTUG Congress was organised, and again the Ministry of Education interfered. Regional Resource Centers (local representatives of the Ministry of Education) urged delegates not to participate in the Congress. One of the delegates, Ms. Cherkezishvili, referring to support by the Minister of Education, called on the other delegates to break up the elections of the president, organise another congress and elect her as president. She promised that the Minister of Education would then restore the check-off system. Nevertheless, a trade union delegate was elected as president.

Transfer of union membership fees unilaterally stopped by Georgian Railways: In July 2010 a representative of the state-owned company Georgian Railways sent a note to the Railway Workers' Union (RWU) of Georgia calling for a number of changes to the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), in particular concerning the transfer of union membership fees. Without waiting for the union's response, the next day the company unilaterally stopped transferring the fees.

The RWU, together with the Georgian Trade Union Confederation (GTUC), attempted to resolve the issue at the national level. A special commission was created by the union to negotiate a new CBA with the company. In August the employer expressed its readiness to start the collective negotiations, but no further steps were taken. The same month the RWU also appealed the order to suspend the transferring of membership dues to the Tbilisi civil court, but in November the court rejected the union's lawsuit.

Despite repeated requests by the GTUC to organise a special session of the National Social Dialogue Commission (NSDC) to discuss the case, the Government did not act until late in the year. The case was discussed at the NSDC on December 28, but the discussion was mostly superficial.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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