Friday, April 18, 2014


Caucasus Report

ILO Condemns Dismissal Of Striking Georgian Metal Workers

A demonstration by metal workers in Kutaisi is broken up on September 16.A demonstration by metal workers in Kutaisi is broken up on September 16.
x
A demonstration by metal workers in Kutaisi is broken up on September 16.
A demonstration by metal workers in Kutaisi is broken up on September 16.
TEXT SIZE - +
Three workers at the Hercules metallurgical plant in Georgia's western city of Kutaisi have been fired and some 100-150 more are under threat of dismissal following a protest strike last week to demand a pay rise and the reinstatement of trade union officials dismissed last month, and to protest working conditions that the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) recently branded "unhealthy and dangerous."

The ITUC has written to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili condemning police intervention to end the strike, the fourth at a major Georgian industrial facility in the past two years. The International Federation of Chemical. Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) lodged a similar protest on September 19 with the Georgian government.

International labor organizations and Georgian opposition parties alike have repeatedly accused the Georgian leadership of routinely ignoring workers' rights and safety in pursuit of foreign investment crucial to economic growth. Foreign direct investment in Georgia plummeted 58 percent in 2009 in the wake of the August 2008 war with Russia over South Ossetia, and a further 16 percent in 2010.

The Hercules plant is owned by Euroasian Steels, an Indian-Georgian joint venture, and produces reinforcing bars for construction. Its workforce numbers approximately 400-500 people, some 250-350 Georgians and 150 Indians.

In early August, some 147 Hercules employees established a trade union that the plant's management refused to recognize. Six elected union officials were dismissed. In early September, workers launched a one-day warning strike to demand the reinstatement of the six, a pay rise, and better working conditions, including provision of protective clothing.

Hercules deputy director Robert Tomaradze admitted that working conditions at the plant leave much to be desired. He said management is seeking to replace protective clothing issued to the workforce when the plant opened two years ago that wore out within months. The plant's management claims that workers' average monthly wage is 700 laris ($421), among the highest in the sector. The workers say they receive on average only 400 laris.

When the Hercules management failed to meet their demands, including for the reinstatement of their sacked colleagues, the Georgian members of the work force again downed tools on September 13; several declared a hunger strike.

During the night of September 15-16, police intervened at the request of the plant's management, detaining some 30 strikers, including the men on hunger strike, without producing warrants. All were released hours later. Tamaz Dolaberidze, head of Georgia's metallurgical, mining, and chemical industry workers' union, said they were required to sign a written commitment not to resume the strike. Police said the men only signed a statement that they had been warned by police not to engage in illegal actions.

Three strike participants, including one of the hunger strikers, have since been dismissed, reportedly for "violations of labor discipline." Others have been forced to resume work under police supervision.

By contrast, three earlier large-scale strikes ended in agreements between workers and management that addressed most, if not all, the strikers' grievances. In early February, some 800 employees at the Tkibuli coal mine in western Georgian launched a work stoppage to demand a pay rise and increased safety measures in the wake of three explosions that killed nine miners and injured 10 more. The mine's owners agreed to those demands.

Last year, metal workers at the Chiatura manganese mine and Zestafon Ferro-alloys plant went on strike with similar demands, to which the respective managements acceded after a fact-finding visit to Georgia by the ICEM general secretary.

Why the Georgian authorities chose to take a tougher stance in Kutaisi is not clear. The European Union has warned that lack of compliance with international labor conventions could jeopardize Georgia's continuing inclusion in the EU's General System of Preferences (GSP+), which allows Georgia to benefit from trade preferences from the EU.

Whether such warnings will have the required effect is debatable, however. Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, whom observers regard as a possible successor to President Saakashvili, recently admitted that "as long as we are so dependent on [foreign] direct investment, we are obliged to defend, and create comfortable conditions for, employers who bring in money."

Meanwhile, the abortive Hercules strike, and the international condemnation of it, will serve as grist to the mill of the five Georgian opposition parties -- the Christian Democrats, the Labor Party, the Social Democrats, the Georgian Party, and Free Georgia -- that have either expressed solidarity with the strikers or issued statements condemning the police intervention.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Konstantin from: Los angeles
September 23, 2011 08:29
It is a big misstake of CIS, Georgia (and Baltics with Eastern Europe)
as a whole.
Georgia depends that much on foreign investments because:

1.
Russia invading and destroying Georgian economy, not without
secret attempts of "imperial resurectors" help Russia to lock-out
Georgia, softened by USA-Georgia relationships;

2.
Most CIS leaders, hypnotized by Russian occupiers for generations,
even didn't try repair economy, except almost destroyed Turism, till
I started post on internet about it - now they do, but only under mean
Russian hypnotic dogma:
"Bring foreign investments and curencies
from export, than Russia will steal it from you!"
When Georgia started to brake from the spell, Russia invaded again
and again, stealing houses and other resources, specially the Built
by Georgia to improve life of local population projects - now it is staffed
by Russian occupiers and their military bases!

3.
Starting with 1954-1956 pact Russia forced on USSR and CIS one
more evil splitt - the friendship between intelligencia, specially the
intellectuals and labours - so the Russian mediocrity, turned feudal
"pomesh'iks", would inserf labours and plagio-exploit Intelligencia
and intellectuals, using new "Treblinkas" and "Anaverde" (not unlike
"Cheremushka" nerve gas).
Georgia tried to change it too, but so far the success in limitted, not
withstanding help of USA (including someone like "Boing").

4.
Anywhere - what the hell it has to do with violation of international
standard of labour conditions and being antagonostic to labour?

If the article above wouldn't be enlarged in its allegations - I would
start to suspect that somebody in Georgia lead Georgia to give-up
to Russia part by part their country and to pave it before Russia
like platcdarm for Russian "pomesh'iks" - to get 3 millions serfs
to spread in Russia industries and a million of intelligencia and
intellectual captives to spread to Russian "Anaverdes" and
"Treblinkas", while Russia would repopulate Georgia...
I hope not!

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.