A previous draft of the new law, developed through a broad consultation process including the Georgian trade union movement, was substantially weakened through behind-the-scenes lobbying by local employers supported by their lobby in the parliament and the American Chamber of Commerce.
The new legislation provides some protection against anti-union discrimination, increases paid leave for people in hazardous occupations, prohibits dismissal of pregnant women and increases the duration of temporary disability provisions.
Nevertheless, unreasonable restrictions are imposed on the right to strike, working hours, maternity protection and compensation for overtime and night work are insufficiently regulated, and provisions concerning employment contracts are heavily biased towards the employer. The new law fails to protect workers’ health and safety, and also allows employers to conduct mass dismissals without any prior consultation with unions as is guaranteed by the provisions of the European Social Charter which Georgia has signed to.
“Once again, back room manoeuvres by employers have weakened what should have been legislation that properly protects workers from exploitation, but key parts of the new law are positive. Overall the package is less than the minimum European compliance promised by legislators. Once these amendments to the Labour code are signed by the President, work needs to start right away on fixing the continued legal deficits to bring Georgia into line with ILO standards and those which apply across Europe,” said ICTU General Secretary Sharan Burrow. “The ITUC and our European colleagues will continue monitoring and will be liaising with the EU institutions accordingly,” she added.